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Finance First: Making Standard Operating Procedures easier

Write down basic processes -- the smallest amount of information captured in the simplest way possible

I keep hearing people talk about the importance of documenting processes, or standard operating procedures. I don’t think I can justify putting the work into that level of documentation.  
— S.B., South Dakota

The reality is every farm has processes. The question is are the processes documented? That’s what people who recommend standard operating procedures are referring to.

Do you have a need for people other than yourself to be doing things in a standard way when you’re not around? An SOP is meant to replicate the same level of quality.

Maybe there’s a sequence of steps necessary to operate the sprayer. You’ll want to document it so whoever is running the equipment will complete all the steps.

Things can go a bit off the rails, though, if we end up spending weeks — or years — documenting every process. The risk is not only in spending too much time and effort, but also in failing to consider the “shelf life” of the documentation.

Farm tech is changing rapidly, and farmers who have committed to building SOPs can become frustrated when it comes to maintaining all their procedures.

You can approach this a bit differently by capturing basic processes, or the “minimum valuable process.” That’s the smallest amount of information captured in the simplest way possible. The goal is to transfer key steps and nothing more.

This could mean a note card kept in the armrest of the tractor, highlighting the five critical things to do before starting a certain activity. Stepping back from creating “perfect” processes and focusing on “good enough” helps prevent frustration from continually putting in a lot of effort.

Work to improve how your operation is capturing processes. Consider what you can document simply and train your team to do so as well.

Frye is president and CEO of Water Street Solutions. waterstreet@waterstreetconsulting.com

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