What Are the Benefits of Standard Operating Procedures?
People rarely get excited when you mention Standard Operating Procedures.
When you're talking to a team member, they get guarded because they associate SOPs with unnecessary bureaucracy and "death by process".
When you're talking to an executive or business owner, they feel guilty that they haven't implemented SOPs yet, because they know it's the key to scaling their operations.
Well, I'm here to tell you (team members, executives and owners) that SOPs are worth it—at least when you do them right.
Here's how your life changes after you've implemented clear, useful SOPs.
First, the short answer.
What are the benefits of Standard Operating Procedures?
- You execute work faster.
- You protect yourself against turnover.
- You build a record of your company's knowledge.
- You serve your customers better.
- Your employees are happier and more autonomous.
- Your new hires get up to speed much faster.
- Your senior team members get more productive.
- You set up your business to scale.
- You prepare to automate your business with AI.
Let's dive into each of these one by one.
Benefit #1: You execute work faster.
At their best, SOPs free you up from unnecessary thinking and decision making.
Especially when you're dealing with a process that gets executed rarely, or by various people at various times.
You don't always get the benefit of "getting in the groove" and running a process multiple times per week, where you can rely on your regular human memory.
Instead, your colleague is out of office and someone needs to write and ship the company newsletter and good luck!
At that moment, if you don't have a clear set of instructions or guidelines, you're left with a lot of decisions to make, or guess at.
- What goes into the newsletter? You've got the previous editions, but what if you miss something? What if something gets mentioned once every X editions?
- Is there anyone designated to review the newsletter? Do you know who to contact?
- Are there any nuances in the marketing automation software used to ship it? (Yes, there always are, and if you don't pay attention to them the formatting will be all wrong.)
And so on.
You're in for an adventure (not the fun kind) if you need to figure this out.
With an SOP though...
You just follow the checklist.
You avoid all the pitfalls that have been clearly marked for you ("don't forget to reset the formatting of the headings!", that kind of stuff).
And most importantly: you can be sure that you're not dealing with any "unknown unknowns"—potential issues you wouldn't have even thought of.
That last point arguably gives you the biggest boost in executing a process fast when you're not familiar with it.
When you follow a good SOP, it's a little like you're a computer executing code: go through the instructions line by line, and you're done.
And you can be sure you're done.
(And your colleague can have that OOO time in peace.)
Benefit #2: You protect yourself against turnover.
This one may be closer to the heart of the executives and owners.
Can SOPs really protect you against turnover?
Yes, and in two ways:
1. Employees who would've left due to poor processes are going to stay when you create clear documentation for them.
Nobody likes to feel stuck at work.
Nobody likes to wait for That One Person Who Knows How To Do This to get back to them on Slack (they won't get back until tomorrow—too many meetings).
Even worse, nobody likes to hear "actually, you should've also done X, Y, and Z" after they ship something.
And over time, that kind of frustration can build up to the point when team members start updating their CVs and spending a lot more time on LinkedIn (in the Jobs section).
Instead, with SOPs, you remove dependencies, eliminate unnecessary communication, and arm your team members to get work done quickly and to a high standard.
(And That One Person Who Knows How To Do This? They're happier that they don't have to explain How To Do This again.)
2. Employees who do end up leaving will have left their knowledge in your SOPs, so you're not facing the horror of "brain drain" and losing your organization's know-how as people leave.
"Lack of SOPs" is definitely not the only reason people leave.
And some turnover is totally natural.
(People sometimes win the lottery, after all. Or decide to stop being a graphic designer and start a career as a mountain guide.)
When your top talent submits their resignation, how will you feel?
If you've got SOPs, there'll be a lot less stress here.
Because your team members are continuously creating a record of your company knowledge in your SOPs.
Think of SOPs as the "save points" of what your company has learned thus far.
When that team member leaves, and their replacement arrives...
...they can just continue from that save point and keep building.
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Benefit #3: You build a living record of your company's knowledge.
Imagine SOPs as your company's unique playbook.
Every procedure, every little trick, every "aha!" moment captured and catalogued.
This isn't just about avoiding the "Oh no, how did we handle this last time?" panic.
It's about building your company's intellectual capital.
Stuff that normally would reside in someone's head or get lost in email threads.
With SOPs, every process has a home in your system—where you can capture how you're executing the process now as well as creating a logical place to store any future improvements to the process.
At this point, it's important to dispel one myth:
SOPs are not meant to be set in stone. Nor are they ever really "finished".
Instead, your SOPs should be a living record, frequently updated to reflect everything your organization is learning.
Try thinking of SOPs as recipes.
They're open to tweaks, they leave room for creativity.
It's possible for your team members to experiment, to create variants and alternatives for your recipes.
As long as the result is delicious!
Or in the case of a business, impactful.
And by the way, imagining SOPs as recipes really drives the point home why you need them.
After all, what restaurant of any scale would operate without recipes?
Benefit #4: You serve your customers better.
Let's be real: inconsistency is the arch-nemesis of good customer service.
SOPs are your secret weapon here, ensuring that every customer gets the same high-quality experience, no matter who's on the front line.
This consistency isn't just about making customers happy (though it does a great job at that); it builds trust and reliability in your brand.
And here's the kicker: SOPs mean faster response times.
No more "Uh, let me check on that for you."
Your team can respond to customer queries with the speed of a well-oiled machine.
This not only delights your customers but also makes your team members happier, who feel more competent and empowered.
Here's Matthew McIver, CEO of Commence Studio, commenting on how becoming SOP-driven was a game changer for his business:
"We used to be a really scrappy team. We'd roll up our sleeves and get work done for clients. We'd still deliver consistency from client to client, but it was exhausting. Plus, as we brought on new team members, it was very difficult to onboard them without SOPs or playbooks for them to follow...
Now that we have all of our processes in order we're delivering better results for our clients and geting great NPS results and feedback, leading to more clients coming through the door."
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Benefit #5: Your employees are happier and more autonomous.
Let's talk about autonomy.
For a lot of team members, it's the holy grail of the workplace.
"Arm me to do my work, end to end, and let me do it in peace."
SOPs go a long way to making that dream come true.
They provide a clear roadmap, allowing your team to navigate their day-to-day with confidence.
This autonomy reduces stress and uncertainty and, let's face it, makes everyone's life a little easier.
But here's the unsung hero aspect of SOPs: they're created by the people, for the people.
When team members contribute to the SOPs, they're not just following orders; they're crafting the playbook.
This sense of ownership and involvement is a huge morale booster.
And That One Person Who Always Gets Asked?
They're now the rockstar who helped build the guide, not the bottleneck in the process.
Benefit #6: Your new hires get up to speed much faster.
Onboarding is like a dance.
It can be a graceful waltz or a clumsy tango, depending on how well your new hires are guided.
Enter SOPs, your dance instructor.
They provide the steps, the rhythm, and the flow.
Newbies can learn at their own pace, reducing the training burden on your other staff.
And if there's a process that's not important enough to include in first-month onboarding, but your newbie might end up executing it four months in...
...instead of scheduling (and remembering to schedule!) another training session, you've got an SOP waiting for them when it's ready to learn about that rare-but-still-important process.
All of this means faster productivity and a smoother integration into your team.
And here's the best part: because everyone is trained with the same SOPs...
...you avoid the "well, this is how I was taught" conundrum.
Even if a more senior team member "was taught" a certain way, your SOPs are a source of truth of how things should be done now.
This approach will upgrade both how new hires and set-in-their-ways old-timers execute work.
Benefit #7: Your senior team members get more productive.
Now, let's look at this from the perspective of your senior team members.
Picture this: your most skilled employees, the crème de la crème of your organization
...spending their days not in innovating or strategizing, but in answering the same questions over and over again.
They want to be helpful, of course.
But they're stuck in an endless loop, a productivity black hole.
Or something like Groundhog Day, but without Bill Murray's charm.
SOPs break this cycle.
Instead of taking the time to answer questions by hand, senior team members can point to your SOPs (which answer the question in more detail anyway).
And what happens when seniors are no longer bogged down by a barrage of queries from newcomers or spending half their day troubleshooting routine issues?
They are free to dive into deep work, to innovate, to brainstorm, to strategize, and to do what they do best:
Lead and shape the future of your company.
Imagine the time saved when these experienced brains are not constantly interrupted.
This time equates to creative breakthroughs, enhanced client relations, and even the development of more advanced training materials.
It's not just about making the seniors' workload lighter (though they'll appreciate the calmer work days).
It's about unlocking the full potential of your best people, which in turn catapults your organization's growth and success.
Benefit #8: You set your business up for scalability.
Scaling a business is like climbing a mountain; it requires preparation, skill, and the right tools.
SOPs are like the high-tech climbing gear that makes the ascent possible and safe.
When you're small, you might manage without them—a bit like a leisurely hike.
But as you start scaling the heights, the air gets thinner, and the paths, less trodden.
Here, SOPs become your guide, your map, your safety net.
Or, to let go of the metaphor...
SOPs ensure that every new team member, every new department, even every new location, has a consistent understanding of how things are done.
This isn’t just about keeping the quality of your product or service high.
It’s about replicating success.
With SOPs, you can clone the processes that work, ensuring that each addition to your company adds value, not chaos.
Read that again: SOPs ensure you're not adding more chaos to your organization as it scales.
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Benefit #9: You prepare to automate your business with AI.
A few years ago, it would have been harder to make a case in favor of detailed SOPs.
But now, generative AI is in the picture.
Before, there was a real risk of having your SOPs sitting in a Google Drive folder, abandoned, somewhere in between your buyer persona slides and your annual team off-site notes.
Now, with AI, those SOPs can be the foundation of something much bigger.
Think about it: AI needs data, instructions, and examples to learn from.
Your SOPs are exactly that.
They're the training manual for your future AI assistant.
By having detailed SOPs, you're essentially prepping your business for a seamless integration with AI tools.
You'll be able to automate repetitive tasks, simplify complicated workflows, and make data-driven decisions much faster (because the data will be just one chat away).
All thanks to the knowledge you're building into your SOPs today.
And let's not forget the cost savings.
AI doesn't get sick, doesn't take vacations, and doesn't have off days.
It's like having an extra team member who's always on, always accurate, and always ready to work.
In this new world, SOPs are not just about maintaining order in the present; they're about paving the way for a smarter, more efficient future.
SOPs are the first step to world-class efficiency and watertight project management
Implementing SOPs is a huge step forward.
But they're not all you will need to create an efficient, profitable business that people are happy to work at and clients are delighted to work with.
For that, you need to take care of what we call the 3 Keys:
SOPs get you a long way towards ticking off #2.
But you still need a tool (or platform) where they will live, easily accessible and ready to be continuously updated by your team members.
We recommend ClickUp (with perhaps some Guru and Tango/Scribe/Loom in the mix).
Read a lot more about it in our ultimate guide to SOPs.
Or to learn about ClickUp from their #1 Solutions Partner (that's us!), dive right into our free ultimate guide to ClickUp here.
Both of these resources will also tell you about the habits your team needs to build to keep your processes documented and your projects delivered on time. Without this crucial piece, no tool nor SOP will move the needle for your organization.
Of course, to solve project management in your business once and for all, the easy way, you could always book a call with us.
Turn Chaos Into Clarity.
We're your agency operations pilot.
You can build a happier, more productive, more profitable team with ClickUp. We'll show you how.
Best of luck in your SOP journey, and don't hesitate to reach out to me (and/or ZenPilot) if you need any further support!