Setting Standard Operating Procedures for Your Farm

Developing standard operating procedures painlessly

Does your business have a complete set of SOPs or does the thought of writing an SOP make you cringe? If you fall into the second category, fear not! After all, an SOP is in its most basic form a checklist of what needs to be done and how to do it. Here are some tips.

With your team of all-stars, how could your company benefit from consistency?
• Training new employees.
• Efficiency.
• Consistent Results.
• Basis for evaluations and work improvement plans.
• Lower risk for injury, environmental damage, mistakes due to inconsistent guidelines.

Rather than dive headfirst into the daunting task of developing a complete set of SOPs, try starting with a focus on checklists for a few key tasks. While it is important to have a manager involved with drawing up the checklist for obvious reasons, don't discount the thoughts and ideas of the team member that completes the job duties on a regular basis as they might have valuable input.

• Start by clearly defining the task and the standards for it. Using "Transporting Piglets" as an example, the scope would contain the actions of all the individuals involved from the time of preparing for transport through completing the delivery.

• List the tasks involved; try doing this by shadowing a team member while they complete their duties. Take note of the important details that could be overlooked—don't simply say "move piglets" but specifically how each piglet should be handled.

• Take note of all health and safety warnings associated with each task.

• Bring in the team! Involve others who may have ideas on efficiency or opinions about best practices. Take their experience into account; have them do a dry run of the tasks to compare to what was written.

• Don't be afraid to tweak it. An SOP should be continuously updated. Any change that happens in the organization should trigger a basic review to assess the impact of that change on day to day operations. Keep the lines of communication open because the front line employee could be the first to see the need for a review.

Over time, your team will come to appreciate the value in standardized checklists as they need to train other team members, cover another member's position, but perhaps most valuable is that a well written SOP sets expectations and standards by which an employee can measure their own performance.

The opinions of Lori Culler are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or the Penton Farm Progress Group.

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