How to write a standard operating procedure manual

Updated April 17, 2017

A standard operating procedure is a document that gives step-by-step instructions on how to complete a task. Think of a brownie recipe. In it, you'll find the exact measurements for each ingredient, the type and size pan needed, the oven temperature and the cooking time. By following the recipe, you should achieve the same results each time you make the dessert. An SOP for a business is much the same. In order to achieve consistent results for the same process, the same steps need to be carried out each time. Whether it is in a pharmacy, a bakery or a high technology manufacturing plant, a standard operating procedure describes how to perform a job, tells which position does it and details how frequently it is performed.

A group of SOPs, say for a department or an organisation, would all come together in a standard operating procedures manual. A complete SOP manual should outline the organisation tasks, showing how individual functions work separately as well as together.

Create individual standard operating procedures. In order to write an SOP, you will need to thoroughly understand the task at hand. You might do this by interviewing the people who do the job, reading their job descriptions and talking with end users. If it's possible, perform the task yourself to see what it is really like.

Write down each step clearly and concisely. Be sure to keep the process divided into individual steps to make them easily understood.

After steps have been documented, have someone go through the procedure, following the steps as written. This will allow for corrections and additions.

Get departmental approvals as needed.

Repeat this process for all individual SOPs.

See how it all fits together. Once all of the SOPs have been created, it's essential to see how related jobs interact. Do the SOPs cover all transfers of responsibility from one position or department to the next? You may need to have departmental or work group meetings to compare SOPs and make sure there are no gaps or overlap.

Once all of the SOPs have been created and reviewed, put them in manuals and make sure they are available to all employees who need them. Include for each procedure the date it was written, when it was approved and who approved it. This will be helpful when it is time to update them, as they may not all be updated at the same time.


Creating an SOP manual can be a big job. Getting departmental support is key for success. Develop a process for reviewing and revising SOPs as necessary.

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About the Author

Pamela DeLoatch is an experienced freelance business writer specializing in creating Web content, articles and white papers. With a journalism and an M.B.A. degree, she has operated her own writing business for two years, writing for online magazines, such as, as well as for small- and medium-sized businesses and is currently a featured blogger for