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SOPs, or standard operating procedures (read this for a discussion on all that murky business lingo), are typically met with one of two responses—they are a total waste of time or they are a complete solution to achieving continuous improvements in the workplace and streamlining your business. Of course, neither of these is entirely true. 

SOPs do not automatically bring value to your business. Without strategic planning, they are nothing more than glorified to-do lists. Spending hours of time perfecting a detailed document to explain a procedure, only to find out the procedure doesn’t actually deliver any value or purpose to your business is a waste of time. And as anyone who has ever worked a less-than perfect job knows, this is often precisely what SOPs entail. 

In the wrong hands, SOPs are the beginning and the end of process improvements and continuous improvements in the workplace. And the result is that they rob people of their precious time. So yeah, they’ve gotten a bad rap. But I promise, when done right, SOPs can be a genuinely time-saving tool and actually ensure continuous improvements in the workplace. 

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The Relationship Between SOPs and Continuous Improvements in the Workplace

An SOP should not involve hours of laborious document writing. But it should be the product of hours of analyzing business practices, defining goals, and strategizing how to achieve those goals for continuous improvements in the workplace. 

An SOP is simply the documented form of the strategy you already need to be making for improving business processes and achieving continuous improvements in the workplace. It’s proof that you’re actually doing something to realize your goals.

Continuous improvements is another one of those phrases that tends to elicit aversive responses. Why? Not because anyone doesn’t want continuous improvements in the workplace and to evolve into a better, more successful professional or enterprise. 

But again, as anyone who has ever worked a less-than perfect job knows, it’s because continuous improvements in the workplace are often the basis for higher employee expectations but are disproportionate to any actual structural shifts in day-to-day function. SOPs provide the precise framework for actualizing these tangible changes.

You can’t make continuous improvements in the workplace without clearly understanding what actually needs to be done to improve, and you can’t meaningfully say what needs to be done to improve if you don’t know your goals for improvement. 

Okay sure, but isn’t it enough to form goals and strategize my processes? Do I really need to write it all down?  

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How SOPs Perpetuate the Benefits of Small Business

In terms of sheer cost effectiveness, if you’ve done all that strategic labor, and spent the hours it takes to formulate meaningful processes and objectives, you might as well take the additional fraction of time to document it into lasting, shareable resources. And sometimes, writing SOPs simply means being intentional about what you’re already recording—if you’re delegating a project, make the instructions or video tutorial as broadly applicable as possible so that they remain evergreen and can act as an SOP.  

Sustainable thinking like this is how you will preserve the integrity of your business and achieve continuous improvements in the workplace as your operations evolve and expand. It’s easy to take advantage of the inherent benefits of small business—agility, control of quality, good company culture—but if you’re not proactive, they will slip away as you grow.  

Strategic process documentation and intentional SOP writing set the stage for meaningful continuous improvements in the workplace that sustain the benefits of small business and enable sustainable growth.


A chief advantage of small and medium-sized businesses is their agility—their ability to quickly adapt to change and swiftly pivot in the direction of opportunities as they arise. This perk is particularly relevant in the age of digital business where changes are constant, and growth opportunities are quick to arise and just as quick to be seized by the competition. 

SOPs Support Internal Movement and Flexibility

To maintain that competitive agile edge, your team needs to remain flexible, which means knowledge needs to be easily transferable. By documenting and defining business processes for everyone to use, you enable your employees to quickly share knowledge and transition between roles, allowing your team to expand its capabilities rapidly when the opportunity arises. 

As new employees join the team or existing ones take on different responsibilities, SOPs minimize the learning curve and optimize your team’s response to varying workloads and emerging skill gaps. Plus when done right, SOPs account for changes and obstacles by providing troubleshooting guidelines: this reduces delegation time and simplifies management by empowering the individual to handle new responsibilities with confidence.

Plus, by closing knowledge gaps, SOPs ensure that information is not confined to the minds of a few key employees (which is quick to happen on a small team)—and therefore, not unavailable when they’re out of office or lost when they leave the company. When it’s transparently recorded in SOPs, critical knowledge is accessible to all relevant parties. 

SOPs Streamline Processes for Rapid Outsourcing 

As your business evolves and your offerings expand, your capabilities must too. Even where you aren’t relying on the talent of your internal team, SOPs are a critical tool. By having clear and detailed processes documented, you can efficiently communicate standards and expectations to outsourcing partners. When working with a new contractor or partner, SOPs double as a performance evaluation tool, by making deviations from instruction easy to track and address.

This is a common issue for small teams and solopreneurs—they hire a virtual assistant without proper instruction, and without anyone to delegate or manage VA questions, the project is a flop and wastes more time than it saves. By having SOPs in place, you ready yourself to pass off admin tasks the moment they arise—with a much better likelihood of success.

SOPs Save Time and Money during Onboarding

Effective SOPs double as employee onboarding materials, and because they’re intended to be used independently, they save you (or your management team) hours of training time. Especially if you take advantage of multimedia SOPs—like video tutorials—SOPs can easily bear the weight of the onboarding process. 

Plus when these SOPs are also treated as living documents that are regularly updated to facilitate continuous improvements in the workplace, you ensure that new team members are being trained through your team’s collaboratively created workflows and the most up-to-date processes—rather than through the eyes of one person’s individual process. 

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Control of Quality

A small business means a smaller amount to oversee, which means a head start on quality management. By taking process improvement measures now, you can take full advantage of this edge, preventing growth risks and building a firm foundation for continuous improvements in the workplace.

SOPs Reduce Risks

Especially if you’ve been executing them yourself for a long time, you might be inclined to think that some processes are far too simple to benefit from SOPs. Let that one go. Simplicity does not equate to risk-free. 

Let me tell a quick story. Back in the day, I worked at an aquatic center, and it was my job to backwash the pool at the end of the day. I went through this process every day; it became habit; but one day, I was off my game and missed a step. I closed the wrong valve, pressure built over night until a pipe burst, and the entire water system had to be replaced. If I’d had a checklist to reference, aka an SOP, that would not have happened, and the aquatic center would have saved thousands of dollars.  

No one does anything 100%, 100% of the time—especially when they don’t know it like the back of their hand or when it’s at all complex. By providing a risk management framework, SOPs get you much closer to that 100%, so even if it’s minimal damage saved, when you’re talking hundreds of processes each day, that adds up. 

SOPs Improve Efficiency and Consistency 

As a small business grows, maintaining efficiency and consistency becomes increasingly challenging. However, SOPs and process documentation provide the necessary framework to tackle this challenge effectively. By providing a standard to reference, SOPs ensure a high level of quality across teams, through staff changes, and throughout the growth of the business. 

SOPs allow for continuous improvements in the workplace by serving as a foundation for evaluating efficiency and identifying opportunities to streamline processes further. By consistently seeking ways to work smarter and more effectively, the business can nurture a culture of continuous improvements in the workplace and achieve growth while preserving its original commitment to quality.

SOPs Enable Performance Tracking and Promote Accountability

SOPs lay the foundation for holding yourself and your team accountable. You can’t be accountable when you don’t know what you’re accountable for, so by helping to clearly outline roles, responsibilities, and performance expectations, SOPs enable team members to take ownership of their actions and outcomes, creating a culture of continuous improvements in the workplace and individual commitment to the overall growth of the business.
By leveraging SOPs to set clear benchmarks and objectives, you set the stage for an efficient metrics system and effective analysis of key performance indicators.

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Good Company Culture

At first glance, streamlining processes with SOPs might not seem like the key to that close-knit company culture that so many of us love about small business. But, bear with me, there’s a reason. 

SOPs Set Clear Expectations and Capitalize on Individual Strengths

In the same way that clearly outlined expectations and responsibilities strengthen accountability, they strengthen a sense of purpose, placing individual contributions in the bigger picture of the company’s success. 

When created as part of a strategic plan to achieve your goals, SOPs help communicate the meaning of each task to whoever is doing the work, providing them the context necessary to take any relevant creative liberties and put forth their best work.

SOPs also help you and your leadership team to easily identify the skills necessary for each project and to use this as the basis for delegation, leveraging the unique skills and expertise of your team. An employee engagement survey conducted by Gallup found a direct relationship between employees’ engagement levels and how much their leaders focused on their strengths.

Assigning tasks based on individual strengths not only leads to higher job satisfaction but also fosters a culture of continuous improvements in the workplace. By recognizing and nurturing each employee’s talents, the business can unlock its full potential and continually evolve in response to changing demands and opportunities.

SOPs Promote Knowledge Sharing and Process Improvements

One of the cultural benefits of a small team is its conduciveness to collaboration, feedback, and professional development. SOPs and process documentation play a key role in promoting this by fostering a culture of knowledge sharing. 

When every team member involved in a project has access to its process guidelines, they can contribute insights and suggestions for enhancement more effectively. This transparency cultivates a culture that values individual feedback, while centering collaboration for continuous improvements in the workplace.

Shared SOPs are a form of knowledge sharing that contribute to the open exchange of ideas, fostering a sense of belonging and mutual support among team members and enhancing overall job satisfaction. By valuing the collective intelligence of its workforce, your business can harness the power of diverse perspectives to fuel continuous improvements in the workplace and stay ahead of the competition.

SOPs Promote Neurodiversity in the Workplace 

Embracing neurodiversity in the workplace is essential for building a positive company culture, and creating accessible pathways to learning is one piece of doing so. SOPs support this effort firstly by emphasizing and helping normalize the process of individual learning in the workplace.

They provide the opportunity for diverse and accommodating modalities of learning and working. Some people require a lot of direction; some require very little; this does not determine their value as a worker, but it might affect their ability to perform in a workplace that is not accommodating. 

By getting in the habit of documenting your processes, you ready yourself to create guiding resources for all kinds of learners—to create task lists, visual maps, videos, audio recordings, or whatever form of direction best supports your team members’ abilities and working styles.

And by cultivating a culture that celebrates neurodiversity, you welcome diverse ways of thinking and problem-solving, which will strengthen your team, leading to innovative approaches and continuous improvements in the workplace. By creating an environment where everyone’s contributions are valued, you can attract and retain talent from various backgrounds, enhancing your company’s creative capacity and adaptability to change. 

Better Company Culture Means Better Talent and Employee Retention

A strong and positive company culture acts as a magnet for top talent and considerably improves employee retention rates. Strategically rooted SOPs not only provide employees with the tools they need to excel in their roles but also demonstrate your company’s commitment to providing an intentional and supportive work environment. 

Retention Chart

As employees experience a sense of fulfillment and purpose, they are more likely to be invested in your company’s success, not only contributing to lower turnover rates but also driving continuous improvements in the workplace to help you realize your business goals.