How To Use Standard Operating Procedures To Become A More Productive Manager


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Managers are often burdened with the task of leading a team and delivering personal results.

Because of this, most managers tend to micromanage employees and appear to be busy. They breathe down their necks just to ensure that work gets done. But the last thing any employee wants is to be babysitted, regardless of whether or not they’re working.

With the responsibility of closely monitoring employees and also performing personal duties in any business, it can get really difficult and almost impossible to stay productive.

Managers often try to solve this issue by either working harder or multitasking. They do after hours trying to either complete their tasks, or modify a rush job done by an employee at the same time.

But a study by the University of Sussex shows that multitasking can be damaging to the brain. Spreading your focus across different things at the same time leads to higher levels of stress.

So the question is, how can a manager lead a group of employees, deliver results and still have a life?

The best way to answer that is to tackle the problem. What causes unproductivity? Could it be employee laziness, lack of managerial focus, poor time management or all of the above?

One reason for the lack of productivity could be no laid down steps to follow. When there are no standards, employees perform tasks based on personal judgement and a lot of guesswork. The inevitable consequence of this is confusion and dissatisfaction.

However, the solution is never to work harder at covering mistakes and smacking moles as their heads pop up. They key is to work smarter. And standard operating procedures make this happen.

What Are Standard Operating Procedures?

Standard operating procedures give you a step by step process on how to get work done. A standard procedure removes room for guess work. It is not enough, nor is it effective to assume that your employees understand what the standards in your organization are.

This assumption is really what would lead to unproductivity and bad headaches. With standard operating procedures, you’re able to lay out a standard process for accomplishing certain responsibilities so that nothing is left undone.

However, the problem with this is managers often just lay these standards verbally. This even makes accountability hard because people forget.

Then there are businesses that have these procedures, but never use them. These procedures are written in a big sacred book and kept in a “holy” corner on a tall book shelf for only the pure in heart. Seriously?

Well, even if you don’t have any laid down procedures, you need to get started. And here are 5 steps to supercharge your productivity.

1. Decide To Redefine Your Work Flow – Have A Small Group Meeting

Every action begins with a decision. Before you get started on creating procedures to improve your productivity, you’ll need to make a decision, but not on your own. Get key decision makers in that business in a room and have a small group meeting.

You may be tempted to meet up with every employee in your organisation, but study shows that smaller groups tend to have more productive outcomes. Larger brainstorming sessions actually prevent people from sharing all their ideas.

Paula Baake, owner and founder of Dancing Mind needed to ramp up operations in her studio. For this to happen, she held a group meeting with key employees to redefine their mission, as well as develop systems and procedures. This ended up paying off as customers were delighted with the new experience.

Standard operating procedures greatly help organizations as a whole. There’s no point having one productive department, while others are in complete chaos. By involving others in the decision making process, you’ll have the assurance that they buy into the vision.

But even if all the key players buy into the vision, you can be sure that not all employees will willingly adopt this new way of working. What do you do?

2. Evaluate And Qualify Your Team

In a war, even generals need to always evaluate their soldiers and screen out traitors, double agents and wimps. At this stage, it’s important that you do the same.

Following procedures is a new method of getting work done. Not everyone reacts positively to this kind of change. This is not because people are different, but humans naturally resist change.

But the last thing you want to do is be sentimental. Evaluating your team would help you identify those who would easily adopt your new procedures, those who would find it difficult accepting it and those who would throw it back at you.

How can you carry this out? Use the 3-point qualifier technique.

When Dr. Daniel Margolin, CEO of New Jersey Foot & Ankle Center needed to revamp his Podiatry practise so he could better serve his patients, he decided to evaluate his employees after developing his procedures. He used the following 3-point qualifier technique to identify and only surround himself with staff willing to learn and able to learn.

Simply look at your team and find out:

  1. Those who are willing
  2. Those who are defiantly negative;
  3. Those who are wholly shitless.

You could draw a three column table and enter the names of each employee as you see fit. You could also do this exercise with key people in your organisation.

By surrounding yourself with only the right employees, they would be eager to help you develop standard operating procedures that would enhance productivity all round.

3. Develop The Procedures With Your Employees

If you already have standard operating procedures laid out in a sacred book, get them out of there! Making your procedures easily accessible through file sharing and online applications makes following them less stressful.

If you don’t have any laid down procedures, kick-start the process by laying them out and handing over initial procedures to your team to follow. Break everything up and have one person complete a series of tasks.

Give these procedures to the employees whom you’ve identified are willing and able to learn. Have them follow the procedures and make suggestions on how to make them better. They’ll most likely have better ideas since they’re the ones “getting their hands dirty” with the work.

When Damien Sanchez, CEO of Mosquito Squad of Greater Washington, DC initially systematized his business, there were still loopholes. After developing procedures, he handed them out so his employees could follow and improve them. With just 11 full time employees, Damien was able to serve thousands of customers per year while creating a great experience for each one.

This process serves as an orientation for employees on the importance of these procedures. But procedures can get bulky and complex. You don’t want your employees collapsing due to daily workload of performing 10 tasks, each one with procedures having 121 steps to follow. How do you counter this?

4. Use The 5 Point Checklist To Increase Employee Productivity

To meet your goal of being productive at work, you also have to work at achieving the same productivity goal for your employees. Their productivity contributes to your productivity. It just makes your job easier.

Every responsibility can be broken down into a series of sections for which different people can be held accountable for. When broken down, you should also make the procedures as simple as possible.

As the manager who is fully aware of what needs to be done, encourage your employees to set their priorities each day. Every employee should have a 5 point checklist that shows the five tasks they need to accomplish that day. Not 10, not 20, but 5.

Louis Spagnuolo, CEO of Don’t Look Media LLC, is a firm believer in accomplishing one thing at a time and not multitasking. Having his employees consistently follow this checklist helped him grow his business to an annual revenue of $9M in 2013 with 16 to 22 full time employees.

As he stated, “It’s better to get four things 100% done than 5 things 80% done.”

Asides following this checklist, you need to ensure they follow the procedures consistently. It’s easy for employees to assume that since they’ve followed the procedures for a while, it’s ingrained, so they’re now pros.

Don’t let this happen! The final part is to constantly remind them.

5. Periodically Retrain Employees To Follow Procedures

The final part of the puzzle is ensuring those procedures are followed. And the last thing you want to do is to start micromanaging them all over again. As long as your employees understand the importance of following those procedures, half of the work is done for you. But everyone needs a reminder sometimes.

Instead of reminding your employees daily, put in the work at once or at different periods. Organize internal trainings to help employees understand why those procedures exist and how to follow them, especially when new responsibilities are added.

To ensure compliance and familiarity with the procedures, Doctor Daniel retrains his staff thrice a year. And he trains new staff daily in about 30 days. Instead of having to repeat the same standards every time a new employee comes on board, simply hand them the procedures to help them carry out their responsibilities.

This is especially good for new employees as it gets them used to the system. Let the procedures do the training for you.

Do You Want to Quickly and Easily Create a Standard Operating Procedure?

Don’t go the default route of putting in more effort whenever you realize that you’re no longer productive. The problem sometimes isn’t in how much work you’re doing but how you’re carrying them out. Step back and look at your work flow.

With procedures, you won’t need to micromanage employees. Procedures help you step back from the work process and help you keep your focus on outcomes and results. No procedure is ground in stone, there’s always room for improvement. But improved procedures only lead to more productivity. And more productivity gets you better results.

If you’d like to create Standard Operating Procedures to become a more productive manager, then consider signing up for a free 24-day trial of SweetProcess. With it, you can create all your Standard Operating Procedures, with detailed instructions, checklists and photos or screenshots to make them easy to understand.

How To Use Standard Operating Procedures To Become A More Productive Manager