Setting the Right Expectations: Scheduling and Resources for SOP Creation

07 Jun 2024


Between us, we like to think of standard operating procedures (SOPs) as insentient superheroes of the business world. After all, they’re the silent leaders who serve as the backbone of clear, consistent, and efficient work processes.

But superheroes don’t just spawn out of nothing; they’re born from super-stellar efforts and practices. And in this case, they’re born from the SOP creation process—a process that extends beyond just documenting the steps of a workflow.

Rather, creating an SOP requires meticulous effort to come up with a plan that ensures accuracy, efficiency, and practicality. Unfortunately, SOP writing is often fraught with issues that stem from unrealistic planning expectations and inadequate support.

And therein lies the key challenge that many businesses face on a regular basis: establishing realistic expectations for the scheduling of SOP production and providing appropriate resources to support the creation process.

Here’s the good news: You don’t have to navigate this alone! This guide will help you set more realistic expectations and navigate the creation process more smoothly. And as a bonus, we’ve even included a sample SOP creation schedule/calendar at the end!

SOP Scheduling

As always, our team at The Writers For Hire acknowledges that every business is different and will thus have its own unique set of challenges regarding the SOP creation process. That being said, we’ve also found that one problematic situation is especially common among businesses when it comes to scheduling.

The SOP Stalemate

Before we get into it, let’s take a moment to clarify the main task and roles of the people involved in making an SOP:

SOP Creation Image by C. Bechteler via Canva

This sounds straightforward enough, right? It seems fairly obvious that a cross-department collaboration is called for. Unfortunately, many businesses want 2 and 3 to be the same person. And although this might seem acceptable at the outset, it doesn’t necessarily pave the road for a smooth and quick SOP process.

Managers tend to forget that the person represented in 2 still has to perform their regular job duties, and adding SOP creation to their workload can be extremely problematic if it’s not properly approached and scheduled.

For example, say, employee Madison is asked to create an SOP that documents a process that they’ve been executing at the company for years. If they’re given a week to create it, without any additional scheduling or planning structure, there’s a good chance that Madison won’t get around to writing the SOP before the end of the week. And if poor planning persists, it’s possible that the SOP won’t get created at all.

Accordingly, we can start to recognize and understand the varying expectations that surround scheduling and the resulting difficulties that frequently accompany the creation of SOPs. 

Tips for Realistic Planning and Scheduling

There’s no shame in admitting that when we want something, we usually want it as soon as possible. While this attitude is acceptable enough when thinking about something trivial like an impulse purchase for décor around the house, it doesn’t translate as well to a business setting.

Estimate how much time is needed.

More often than not, people tend to underestimate how much time creating an SOP will take. Wintress Odom, the founder and owner of The Writers For Hire, points out that she’s seen many people “get very frustrated when they don’t book out the proper amount of time. They think they’re taking too long writing it and worry that they must be doing it wrong.”

But they’re not doing it wrong! The truth is that creating an SOP takes time. So, before you jump into the creating SOPs, take the time to thoroughly assess the scope and complexity of the SOP at hand. Understanding the intricacies involved empowers you to plan accordingly and provide the necessary resources (more on this later).

As a rule of thumb, Odom advises allocating about an hour per page of the SOP: “Expect to spend about 30 to 40 minutes writing each page, and then an extra 20 or 30 minutes on edits and cleanup.” Following this general rule will significantly reduce inaccurate timeline expectations.

Respect the writer’s existing workload and schedule.

Recalling Madison from our example above, it’s evident that a deadline with no corresponding schedule or plan isn’t the best approach here.

Instead, opt for a candid and supportive conversation with the individual responsible for drafting the SOP. Be sure to inquire about their current schedule and work together to devise a schedule that accommodates their existing workload while also designating time to create the SOP.

Remember, flexibility and compromise are key in striking a balance that works for both parties.

SOP Resources

It’s essential for businesses to provide SOP writers with access to resources that facilitate their efforts throughout the SOP creation process.

While the specific resources will vary from company to company and from one SOP to another, there are a few tools that most SOP writers will invariably benefit from. These include:

  • An SOP template
  • At least one relevant example (the more examples the better)
  • Access to subject matter experts
  • Peer support from other SOP writers

Sample SOP Creation Schedule

Let’s say you have to create an SOP that will be about 20 pages long.

Following the time estimation rule of thumb, you can expect to spend around 20 hours on the creation process. That’s half a workweek! So how might you schedule this out?

If management and your schedule can accommodate it, you could dedicate half a day throughout one workweek to get this done. Or you could spread it out more—like two hours a day over the course of two weeks.

You, Me, and the SOP

With this guide in your back pocket, you can confidently initiate and schedule the creation of SOPs as needed. But if you have a lot on your plate and could use an extra hand, The Writers For Hire team has your back! We can help you identify, plan, and create all of your business’s SOPs on a practical and efficient schedule.

Coralee Bechteler 
In the past, Coralee has been an organic farmer, a chicken herder, a zipline administrative assistant, and an ESL teacher for kids. Today, she's living her childhood dream of being a writer. She currently resides in New York with her cat (and muse) Hermes and a miles-long TBR list that gets longer every day. If she's not reading or crafting, you can usually find her pulled over on a country road writing something down or picking wildflowers. Coralee holds a bachelor's degree in English, an associate's degree in Horticulture, and multiple internationally recognized software testing certifications.

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