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Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)

Vishwadeep Khatri
Message added by Mayank Gupta,

Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is a process document which provides step by step instructions on how a routine task needs to be performed. This ensures uniformity in performing the task thereby improving efficiency and quality.


An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Lalit Ratnani and HariShankar Ramamoorthy.


Applause for all the respondents - Grace Tang, Lalit Ratnani, Sudhee, Viswanath S Nalli, Saurabh Narkar, Pradeep Kandpal, HariShankar Ramamoorthy, Niloy Majumder.


Q 640Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) - The purpose of SOP is to standardize the work and thereby reduce variations. On the other hand, too much standardization stifles creativity. How does one manage to strike a balance between the two?


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Typically, SOP is utilized to document the end to end processing steps that have to be followed for manufacturing a product in the production environment / providing a service in the services industry. In essence, a SOP captures the 'As Is' process, list of processing steps, list of typical deviations and processing steps to be followed for such deviations etc. Depending on the product or service being offered, SOP may also contain additional details including list of front end / back end systems, regulatory requirements if any etc.


Although the purpose of SOP is to standardize the work, it does not stifle creativity because if there is a requirement to improve process performance or to enhance a product or service, then a DMAIC/DMADV/ LSS process improvement/process reengineering project can be undertaken to further improve or enhance the project/process. Post successful enhancement / development of new product, the revised processing steps can be recorded in the SOP. This procedure can be repeated as many times as required/deemed appropriate to develop a world class product / service.




Lalit R









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Standard Operating Procedure:

The standard Operating Procedure is created when a new process/ product or service is introduced, this document captures the process step by step which helps

1.       To train the new resources whilst onboarding

2.       Refer and reengineer the process for continuous improvement

3.       Conduct the touch time study

4.       Calculate the effort estimate for resource and volume dimensioning

The SOP is a part of the process repository and it isn’t a static activity, it’s a live document that needs updating throughout the process life cycle. Whilst it requires an intensive effort to update the changes to the SOP through a Change control process and publish the latest version for usage, a lack of updating the SOP will lead to process gaps and activities operating on a silo. When we have a large scale of resources operating a single process SOP becomes a holy book that can referred to at all stages. If an updated SOP isn’t available it will lead to the following challenges

1.       Dip in resource utilization

2.       Shortfall of throughput

3.       Defects in delivery

4.       Delay in delivery as lead time increases

5.       Impacts Customer Experience

Whilst everyone thinks Standardization stifles creativity, On the contrary, it could help in Continuous Improvement. It also has a ripple effect if you improve one variable it yields multi-fold benefits. For Example, A periodic review of the SOP in a brainstorming session will help to generate ideas. These ideas could be of various forms and shapes like improving touch time, eliminating repetitive steps, automating a monotonous activity, doing activities in parallel where there isn’t a dependency on one another etc. If any one of the ideas like improving touch time (for example) is implemented it improves

1.       Throughput

2.       Customer Experience

3.       Revenue

4.       Employee Satisfaction through rewards and recognition

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It's important to strike a balance between standardization and creativity, but we can do so with the correct approaches.
Boundaries and decision-making guidelines will be established by having a clear scope for consistency. As they engage in areas where uniformity is required, teamwork is essential. Look for ideas from the team to improve the process. Third is,
Employees should receive training and development to foster their capacity for innovative thought. Employee openness and innovation within predetermined bounds will guarantee uniformity and excellence. Lastly, Acknowledge accomplishments since they will serve to both. Emphasize the need for creativity and the benefits of standardization.

Finding the ideal balance between creativity and standardization takes time. Standardization and innovation may coexist in an atmosphere that you establish by involving the team, encouraging flexibility, and cultivating a culture of continuous improvement.

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Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)  is very important to clearly outline the areas that requires strict adherence to the process to be followed without missing any steps. It will be part of the knowledge library as part of the operational documents management. The knowledge will not be compromised if we lay out every step of it as it fosters the process-oriented framework vs people-oriented framework.


By giving only focus on SOP standardization will foster the creativity within an organization can be challenging but is essential for overall efficiency, effectiveness and innovation.


  • Outlining clear boundaries for the SOP
  • Always design SOP’s with flexibility in mind so that creativity will have a space to enter.
  • Tailor SOPs to allow flexibility.
  • Continues improvement culture to endorse creativity to tweak the process when needed.
  • Regular review and update changes when needed without compromising the creativity of the work.
  • Use of technology to foster the creativity by automating routine tasks outlined in SOPs which gives room for creativity.


With this balance we will have the mindset by allowing employees more time and mental space for creative thinking and problem-solving.

Striking the right balance between standardization and creativity is an ongoing process that requires a thoughtful approach, adaptability, and a commitment to continuous improvement. It involves creating a culture that values both efficiency and innovation, recognizing that they can coexist and complement each other.

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Standard operating procedure (SOP) is a step-by-step approach to achieve quality output with increased efficiency and better performance. It’s also used to achieve better repeatability and reproducibility in final output by reducing errors and avoiding potential manufacturing failures.


Although standardization is useful in an organization, too much of standardization may not be good for organization which strives for innovation and creativity or organization which require out of box thinking for growth.



Dis-advantages of over Standardization.

- It discourages creativity and innovation.

- Not good for unique challenges in organization.

- Restricts out of box thinking.

- May not be suitable for some aspects and may have reverse effect.

- May Limit growth of an organization.



Way to balance between over standardization and creativity.

-        To Adopt flexible mind set.

-        To define clear goals and timeline for business.

-        To follow best practice & control plan suitable for business.

-        To review the results and choose appropriate action based on goals.


It’s important to identify & prioritize the requirements.

Prioritize creativity and innovation when business demands growth for certain processes.

Prioritize standardization and SOP when business demands consistency for certain processes.

Balancing between standardization and creativity can bring stable growth for an organization.

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SOPs enable us to make our processes refined and best optimized to deliver products and services to a level that they are comparable with the best-in-class players within the industry. 


Once we reach that level, SOPs can act as a lunching pad from where organizations can leverage their market research, inventive problem solving, design thinking, and R&D capabilities to improve their products and services. They should also be bold enough to cannibalize their existing offerings to accommodate new product features and services built upon the standardized best practices so that they always have a competitive advantage.     


If we restrict ourselves to just standardizing and refining our existing processes via SOPs, and stop there, it would lead to stagnation across industries, predisposing us for eventual replacement by outside innovators.


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Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) are very important process document that specify job steps, which helps to standardize products and consequently quality. It describes in detail how an operator should perform a given operation or run a process. The purpose of SOPs is to ensure that all persons are performing the defined tasks in the same way, which is a needed to get the expected output from the process, thus person to person variation or chances of error reduces. Hence the SOPs plays a crucial role to standardize the processes across organization.
At the same time to sustain profitable business in this competitive scenario, innovation with continuous improvement is essential. Any new business opportunities will create new problems and that needs new solutions, so any organization must be equipped with the new tools and have the freedom to innovate.
But organizations may face challenges between competing needs for standardization through SOPs and innovation. At the crucial time of organizational change, achieving correct balance between these needs can be essential to an organization's success. Going for too much of either can lead to decline in productivity and morale issue as well among the team members.
Team must understand that freedom to innovate doesn't mean freedom to do whatever we are thinking. The trick is to be able to encourage and drive innovation, but at the same time to keep innovation efforts focused towards organization's goals and to address the problems business is currently facing. The standardization gives a solid foundation on which innovation and improvement culture can build. Because until process is standardized, we don't have the base to work on and find improvement opportunities. To complement innovation with standardization, there must be flexibility to update the SOPs as and when required based on the improvement done through innovation. That will give the team apply creativity at the same time achieving organization goals through following standards.

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