How to Create an Operations Manual for Your Business (and Avoid Nuclear War)

operations manual operational excellence operational knowledge

Having an operations manual may not be glamorous, but preventing the disasters caused by human error and bad processes can save your business and even (in extreme circumstances) millions of lives.

If you’ve ever seen Dr. Strangelove, you’ll know it’s ridiculous. You’ve got a mad scientist, a cowboy pilot riding a bomb as it falls, and a nuclear holocaust brought about by a series of overblown human (and mechanical) errors.

operations manual - dr strangelove

Yet, despite being criticized as unrealistic, at the time it was entirely possible for human error to cause a Third World War. Hell, human error has already caused the worst nuclear accident to date.

A perfect storm of 6 human errors — culminating with staff thinking it was ok to turn off the emergency cooling system — caused the Chernobyl disaster, costing an inflation-adjusted $720 billion, 30 deaths and an extreme amount of unsafe radiation.” – Ben Brandall, How Processes Protect Your Business From Crashing and Burning

The truth is, the only way to prevent such errors is to document workflows and processes, and the only way to make sure your employees know what they have to do, how to do it, and have the resources to do it is to create your own operations manual.

In this Process Street article, we’ll be covering:

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50+ Free & Easy SOP Templates (Sample SOPs to Record Standard Procedures)

easy SOP standard operating procedures example templates

Writing standard operating procedures is a cumbersome task but a serious requirement for businesses the world over.

In many industries it is important to have documentation which shows you have been adhering to ISO guidelines. This can help you clinch major clients and demonstrate your professionalism.

However, when you’re starting out with your first SOPs it can be difficult to know where to begin.

That’s why we’ve pulled together a range of the best free SOP templates for you to work from.

Simply go through the available SOPs below and pick out the one best suited to your needs. We’ve included Microsoft Word templates and Process Street ones too. You’ll also find a guide for writing SOPs to help you get started.

Given that it can be intimidating writing standard operating procedures, we have provided a number of industry-specific examples plus suggestions for how you can pull together basic SOPs even if they’re not documented according to ISO standards.

Read through the following sections to get completely clued up:

Let’s dive in.
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Lab Procedures: How to Make Your Lab Safe and Effective

Lab Procedures

I’m not religious, but God bless high school lab technicians.

I can’t count the number of times that Dave (our high school’s technician), exasperated and exhausted, despaired at the lack of common sense some of our teachers had.

Heck, our physics teacher once almost exposed a classroom of Year 7s (11 years old!) to chlorine gas.

He forgot to turn on the extractor fans, leaving poor old Dave to rush in, turn them on, and then promptly evacuate everyone from the room.

Corroding the lungs of your students is, after all, not best practice.

This is why it’s important to have set lab procedures in place. Following these documented processes is the best way to prevent disaster.

When 25-38% of lab personnel have been in an accident that wasn’t even reported (as demonstrated by Dana Ménard and John Trant), you can see the dangers that are easily taken for granted in a lab environment.

That’s why we here at Process Street have created a Lab SOP process that you can use for free, and will go over the common points that a lab procedure needs to cover in this post.

If you just want to get the checklist for yourself, you can check it out below.

You can also click the links below to be taken to a specific section of the article:

Let’s get started!
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How to Write a Procedure: 13 Steps to Eclipse Your Competition

how to write a procedure - header

Knowing how to write a procedure is a key skill for anyone looking to build a successful business. Procedures are vital to consistent success for many of the same reasons that processes are important – they let you reliably repeat your successes, isolate and correct your mistakes, and create a business model that lets you scale your operations.

If you don’t know how to write a procedure then you’re dead in the water. Get it right, and the resulting efficiency boosts can put you on track to eclipse your competitors.

This Process Street post will cover the following topics to help you write effective procedures:

Read on to learn the 13 steps to writing your business’ procedures effectively, in a way that they will actually be followed instead of getting read once and then forgotten.

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What is an SOP? 16 Essential Steps to Writing Standard Operating Procedures (With Templates)

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🟢✅ Bonus material: SOP Structure Template to help you write perfect procedures

Whether you’re starting a business or trying to improve an existing one, you have to understand how things are going to get done.

What tasks do you need to do? Who needs to do them? What are the best ways to approach these tasks?

Working out how these questions can be answered is the first step toward systemizing your business. The creation of processes and workflows will define the way in which your day to day activities function.

One popular approach to this is the creation of standard operating procedures. The simple definition provided by IBM for standard operating procedures is:

…a set of instructions that describes all the relevant steps and activities of a process or procedure.

Simple.

But how do we create these SOPs? What we need are standard operating procedures for creating standard operating procedures – and some standard operating procedure software. And that’s what we’re going to give you.

We’ll look at:

  • How to create a set of standard operating procedures
  • Some advanced techniques for improving your SOPs
  • Why Process Street is a useful tool for both mapping and following your standard operating procedures

Read through these sections to get clued up:

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How to Write an Actionable Policy and Procedure Template (ISO Compliant!)

Policy and procedure document

Let’s get straight to the point – you’re probably searching for a policy and procedure template you can actually use (bonus points if it’s ISO compliant).

So, if you just want an actionable policy and procedure template, you can find two hand-crafted examples below. One of them is basically a blueprint you can use to build out your own, and the other is a fully filled out example of the first, using a fictional company called Brightstar Marketing.

Both can be easily edited and updated by you inside Process Street.

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Agile ISO: How to Combine Compliance with Rapid Process Improvement

agile isoISO standards can be confusing and intimidating.

However, with the 2015 updates, it really shouldn’t be that scary.

In the past, conforming to ISO meant huge manuals and a lengthy process to change how tasks were approached.

Now, there is increased flexibility and the opportunity to utilize software to speed up your systems and make everything easier to handle.

This is why we’re presenting you with our concept of Agile ISO: how to combine structured compliance with the rapid process improvement of a startup.

In this Process Street article, we’ll cover:

  • What is ISO?
  • What is ISO 9000?
  • What is Agile ISO?
  • What is needed to support Agile ISO?
  • How to get started with Agile ISO in 5 easy steps

I’m going to try to be brief and clear while cutting the bullshit.

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Why You Need Customer Service Processes, and How to Get Started Now

The following is a guest contribution from Mary Shulzhenko. Mary is a digital marketer, content strategist and a copywriter. She is passionate about writing on customer service, customer experience, small business, marketing and a variety of other business topics. She provides the original content for LiveAgent, an award-winning and the most reviewed help desk software for SMBs in 2018. You can find her on LinkedIn.

Would you agree to fly on a plane knowing that the crew was simply ‘told’ what to do but didn’t use clear guidelines and instructions? Probably not.

Sadly, that is how many organizations operate today – without realizing that it may result in a wide range of negative consequences, from employee inefficiency, to lost customers and profits.

Telling employees what to do is not nearly as effective as having a set of written step-by-step instructions they can follow, explaining how exactly routine operations should be performed. That’s where standard operating procedures, or SOPs, come in.

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Why Process Standardization Improves Quality, Productivity, and Morale

The following is a guest post by professional copywriter and freelance writer Michael Schultheiss, owner of Inkwell Freelance.

Imagine if your support staff had no set guidelines for handling a ticket.

It would be like you pulled in a group of random people from the street, sat them down at the helpdesk, and expected to see a job well done.

Instead of a job well done, it’d probably look more like this:

That’s essentially what you’re allowing when you fail to standardize processes. Your company’s operations consist of tasks that must be completed on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis to ensure that it runs smoothly. But if these processes aren’t standardized, you’re inviting chaos.

These could be core processes like dealing with a customer support request, or tasks that recur less often like SSL certificate renewal.

Every task — regardless of how often you do it — requires rules that define the scope, quality, and methods to be followed. If you don’t standardize these rules, you can’t have visibility over whether you’re ensuring quality and reducing human error.

In short, running your business will be an operational nightmare.

To help you avoid that, in this article we’ll look at process standardization as follows:

  • What is process standardization?
  • The benefits of standardization
  • Common concerns about standardization
  • How Process Street can help you standardize

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17 BPM Statistics to Help You Increase Efficiency in Your Business

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Business process management (BPM for short) gets a bad wrap. Some consider it industry jargon, others an ineffective management “hack”, and almost all see it as boring.

However, there is no better way to increase efficiency and consistency in your business than by managing your processes effectively. To prove it, this post will dive into 17 BPM statistics to show:

  • The growing trend of using BPM software
  • How common (and important) documented processes are
  • The importance and benefits of processes
  • The dangers of not managing processes
  • Why everyone in your company needs to be involved with your processes

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