Feeling a little “out of control?” Try Standard Operating Procedures.

You already have operating procedures in your business. The questions you need to ask yourself are about control of those procedures.

  1. Does it matter if I have control?
  2. Do I have control of how things are done in my business?

If there is no right or best way to carry out the procedures in your business, then it doesn’t matter if they are standardized or not. If there’s no best way, then everyone can do things the way they see fit at any given time and it won’t matter. Unfortunately, I haven’t found that type of business yet, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist in agriculture, so let me know if you have one.

For the rest of us, with businesses that focus on animal and plant health, where profit margins are tight, and that are engaged in producing food for eventual human consumption, quality matters!

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are a management tool that is essential to an overall quality management philosophy. The idea is to define a particular process, document it in a written procedure, and ensure that everyone is following the procedure and doing the task in the same way. Documenting and getting everyone doing it the same way is the first step in getting control. Once you have control, then you can make changes and improvements to the procedure until the whole team is doing the task in the same and best way, every time. This is an absolutely essential process that the best managers always follow!

Regarding question 2 above, don’t assume that you have control already. I worked with a small dairy farm with three members in the workforce who milked cows: mom, dad, and son. They spent nearly all of their time together and really had good communications with each other. But when I sat down with each of them to document the milking SOP, I found there were three different ways that cows were getting milked on that farm! Everyone was surprised, I heard a lot of, “I didn’t know you were doing it that way.”

I updated the Resource page on Ag Workforce Development today. The “SOP Writing Guide” can be found there under Organization Tools.

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