After your standard operating procedures are written, they need to be reviewed carefully before they’re published. Even after they’re published, reviewing and revising SOPs is an ongoing process. There should be a standardized review process in place for both the initial review and regular reviews.
The Initial Review
Before SOPs are implemented, they need to be reviewed and tested. Most large companies have quality assurance (QA) managers, part of whose job it is to review SOPs before they’re published. If your company doesn’t have QA managers, your SOPs can be reviewed by regular managers, other employees, or colleagues. Obviously, if you’re a very small business you’re probably going to be doing the review yourself.
The reviewer will be looking for several things. First of all, SOPs should be accurate, easy to understand, and factual rather than opinion based. They need to outline their processes completely and shouldn’t be repetitive. Overall, an SOP needs to meet its planned objective: to describe how X task should be performed.
The reviewer reads the SOP and takes notes on anything he or she feels needs to be revised. The SOP is then sent back to the author, who makes the revisions. Each company has a different procedure for the review process and many companies have multiple reviews. The author may submit the SOPs to several reviewers before it’s considered complete. Some companies have an SOP committee that does the final review before the SOP is published. In a small company, this is done by the owner or a general manager.
Regular Standard Operating Procedure Reviews
SOPs are never finished. Rather, they are works in progress, because conditions are always changing. A company may change its policies or procedures, or new laws, regulations, or market changes may require updates to the SOPs. Your company needs to have an SOP audit and review process in place in which existing SOPs are reviewed. This system is beneficial not only in keeping SOPs up to date, but it also looks good to have a solid review process if your company is audited. Reviews should be done at least bi-annually, but it’s good to do them more often.
Your system for reviews should include which SOPs need to be reviewed when and who will review them. Again, many companies have dedicated QA managers or SOP committee members. If this isn’t the case for your company, designate a manager or regular employee to do the reviews.
For each SOP, determine whether it is satisfactory, needs revision, or is obsolete. A satisfactory SOP is one that is still accurate and thus needs no revision. Obsolete SOPs should be withdrawn but kept on file somewhere in case they need to be referred to.
Revise the SOPs that need it and then review using the same criteria as above. When one SOP is changed, it may impact other SOPs. This can create inconsistency, which can cause problems for your employees or customers. Determine which SOPs are impacted by the revision and revise accordingly.
After the revision process is complete, the SOP needs to be finalized by updating the administrative section of the SOP with the person who is doing the finalizing, the date, the next date for revision, and any other necessary details. All SOPs need to be finalized, including those that are revised, those that aren’t, and those that are withdrawn.
Keep the End Goal in Mind
Whenever reviewing or revising, make sure everyone understands the goal of the SOP. Remember what it is supposed to accomplish. When one SOP undergoes several revisions, it can become misaligned and lead to errors or inconsistencies. An SOP may become irrelevant. Before reviewing an SOP, read its objective to clarify and make sure it achieves its stated purpose.