Standard operating procedures describe the steps employees must take to complete a task consistently. A successful SOP begins well before you pencil out the details.

“Advance planning greatly increases the chance of success with standard operating procedures,” says Rich Stup, human resources extension associate with Penn State University. To get the most out of your SOPs, answer these questions during the planning stage:

·         How will performance improve once the SOP is in place? Set challenging, but achievable, goals for employees to achieve from the task outlined in the SOP.

·         How will I monitor performance so I know employees are following the SOP? How will I gather feedback to tell employees how they are doing?

·         How will I monitor results to know if the SOP itself is properly designed and is effective? For example, you can measure the pounds of milk harvested per milker per hour and the rate of new mastitis infections per month. These indicators show how efficiently cows are being milked and how effective the SOP is at preventing the spread of mastitis.

·         What type of format will I use when writing the SOP? There are many ways to organize an SOP. For example, you can use a simple set of steps for repetitive tasks, such as milking procedures.

·         How will I get everyone to buy into the SOP?

For more information about SOPs, visit this Web site:

Once there, scroll down and click on “Standard Operating Procedures: A Writing Guide.” You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the file.