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Why Organizations Overlook Policies and SOP’s?

By the TCL Staff

You may have heard this story before.  A knowledgeable employee suddenly dies and right after he or she is laid to rest, the former employer falls into uncontrollable chaos. Management starts ripping their shirts in despair.  The reason?  The organization realized that the knowledge transfer necessary for continued operations was unsuccessful and has sent the organization into crisis mode.


We can (as well as you can) recall many instances in which we have sought services from a public agency and quickly being dismissed because a particular employee was unavailable.  Nobody else was available to take over.  In another instance, supporting a non-profit who was scorned by a federal agency simply because its employees could not explain the procedures to be followed for case management. 


An SOP can be defined as a set of step-by-step directives composed by an organization to assist personnel carry out repetitive tasks. SOP’s purpose is to attain efficiency, quality output and uniformity of performance, while reducing miscommunication and failure to comply with regulations in any field or industry.  Policies are principles, rules, and guidelines formulated or adopted by an organization to reach its long-term goals. Policies are designed to influence and determine all major decisions and actions, and all activities take place within the boundaries set by them. They are intended to provide a definite outline of the organization's plans in order to guide and determine present courses of action.


While you may consider this topic puzzling or frivolous, the reality is that many organizations do not write SOP’s.   


However, it is generally recognized that having well-documented policies and SOPs can bring significant benefits, such as improving consistency, compliance, training, and knowledge transfer, as well as mitigating risks and promoting operational efficiency. Many organizations eventually recognize the need for formal documentation as they grow, or face challenges related to lack of standardization.


There are many reasons to prepare SOP’s, but here we share why organizations fail to address this: 


Lack of prioritization: Some organizations, especially smaller ones or those in fast-paced industries, may prioritize other tasks over documenting processes and procedures, viewing it as a lower priority or unnecessary bureaucracy.

Perception of flexibility: There may be a perception that having written policies and SOPs can reduce flexibility and agility, especially in rapidly changing environments where processes need to adapt quickly.

Overreliance on institutional knowledge: In organizations with long-tenured employees or a strong culture of knowledge-sharing, there may be an overreliance on verbal communication and institutional knowledge rather than formal documentation.

Resource constraints: Developing comprehensive policies and SOPs can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, requiring dedicated personnel and effort. Organizations with limited resources may struggle to allocate resources for this task.

Resistance to change: In some cases, there may be resistance from employees or management to implementing formal policies and procedures, as it can be seen as a threat to established practices or autonomy.

Lack of awareness: Some organizations, particularly smaller ones or those in certain industries, may not fully understand the importance and benefits of having well-documented policies and SOPs.

Informal culture: In organizations with a more informal or relaxed culture, there may be a perception that written policies and SOPs are too rigid or formal for their way of working.


Having written policies and standard operating procedures (SOPs) can help organizations avoid or mitigate several common problems:


Inconsistency: Written policies and SOPs help ensure that processes are carried out consistently across the organization, reducing variations in how tasks are performed by different individuals or teams.

Knowledge loss: When procedures are not documented, there is a risk of losing institutional knowledge when experienced employees leave the organization. Written documentation helps capture and preserve this valuable knowledge.

Compliance issues: Many industries have regulatory requirements or standards that organizations must adhere to. Written policies and SOPs provide a clear framework for ensuring compliance with these regulations and standards.

Quality control: Documented procedures help maintain consistent quality levels in products or services by standardizing processes and reducing the likelihood of errors or deviations.

Training challenges: Without written documentation, training new employees or cross-training existing staff can be challenging and prone to inconsistencies. Well-documented policies and SOPs facilitate more effective and consistent training.

Inefficiencies: Lack of standardized procedures can lead to inefficiencies, redundancies, or unnecessary steps in processes, resulting in wasted time and resources.

Safety risks: In industries where safety is critical, such as manufacturing or healthcare, written policies and SOPs help ensure that safety protocols are consistently followed, reducing the risk of accidents or incidents.

Legal liabilities: In the event of legal disputes or investigations, written policies and SOPs can serve as evidence of the organization's established practices and procedures, potentially mitigating legal liabilities.

Communication breakdowns: Clearly documented procedures can improve communication and coordination between different departments or teams, reducing misunderstandings and streamlining workflows.

Continuous improvement: Written documentation provides a baseline for reviewing and improving processes over time, enabling organizations to identify inefficiencies or areas for optimization more easily.

By addressing these potential problems, well-designed and implemented policies and SOPs can contribute to increased efficiency, consistency, compliance, and overall organizational effectiveness. 





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