Most dictionaries define Standard Operating Procedure as
- Established procedure to be followed in carrying out a given operation or in a given situation.
- A specific procedure or set of procedures so established.
What does SOP mean?
SOP is a written document detailing steps or activities for a certain process. SOP can be created for any existing or new process. This document helps standardize the process. The goal is to really do the job same way every time we do it.
Why create SOP?
- It details the activities that need to be performed and so there is a common understanding of the process among the people involved.
- Someone new to the position will perform the same task the same way as someone who has been in the job.
- It ensures the process is performed the same way on a continuous basis.
How to create SOP?
- Start with the team who is involved in the process. Include people who will be performing the job to gain insight and details that might get missed.
- Document current state of the process in the sequence it occurs.
- Document terminologies and define them so there is no ambiguity.
- Review the document with the team and get sign off.
- Maintain the document and review on a continuous basis.
- Establish a system for distribution and sign off when changes occur.
Bottom line: SOP are an integral part of creating quality systems. It provides information to perform a job consistently and properly. To get to a good quality output we have to have inputs that are predictable. For example I asked 10 non-testing people at work “What is regression testing?
Each one had a different understanding. One person said its “100% testing of everything” Another individual said “its automated testing“. We have a Software Quality Control Handbook that defines our testing terminology but that is a document that we use internally. We also have explained regression testing to some extend in our Test Plan. This test plan is reviewed before every release. So then why is there a lack of understanding?
Well we haven’t spent the time with the team to go over the process steps. We didn’t define terms with context to the process steps involved within testing group. With a Lean Six Sigma project I am currently working on I am hoping to define the testing process and create an SOP that would make our lives a lot easier than it is today.
What this will then do is help with setting the right expectations from our testing processes and we can deliver a product that is tested and meets the expectations of the project team. Right now they expect us to test everything and catch all defects. Sure we did love to do that and then we would never have a release for any of our products.