Who Wants More Accountability and Cost Savings? Use Standard Operating Procedures to Document Operations
How one Interim Executive puts operations under a microscope by creating processes and standard operating procedures to bring accountability and cost savings to companies.
At Cerius, one of the top questions we get asked is who are these interim executives? Like paratroopers, they are ready to drop in with a phone call, and are ready to step in and help wherever needed. Creating standard operating procedures for business operations is one way interim executives have saved companies time and money.
To understand how one becomes an interim management executive, we asked Interim Operations Executive Felda Looper how she ended up as an interim executive. Her career has varied greatly with different kinds of businesses and organizations, including retail, setting up a team for the embassy in Iraq, and working with companies that are growing at an exponential rate. Like many, she now focuses on her specialty – creating processes and standard operating procedures for accountability and cost savings.
“Processes are very much a part of what I do. I’ve been doing this for thirty years and want to focus on working with companies needing more structure in what they do and how they do it. It became very clear to me that being an interim would be an ideal situation for me at this point in my career,” she said.
Processes and Standard Operating Procedures
“Organizations without processes in place cannot be efficient,” said Felda. She aptly phrases the situation as, “You don’t start to bake a cake without a recipe.” It’s one of the most common questions that CEOs are asked: Do you have processes and procedures? From a CEO’s perspective, it almost feels like a necessary evil to have the books of SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) on company grounds.
Not having a recipe in place starts to create problems, and you’ll see symptoms spread throughout the organization. That’s when the leadership at the top realizes they can’t put their finger on what is going on in the organization. It starts with fires that need to be put out, ending in total chaos at which point you realize you’re in trouble.
That’s when interim executives like Felda are called. She said, “I find that the times I’m called in are generally at the point of not having caught the problem in the first place and it’s now tumbling downhill and they need help.”
The Warning Signs
CEO’s realize they need help when they’re putting out fires left and right in their company. To reach that point where it’s chaotic and the pain is extreme is the result of ignoring the warning signs and not diagnosing the problem earlier. Help should be asked for much earlier when signs become apparent.
Felda told us, “I’ve found that if leadership is listening to their managers and directors, and there are signs that things are not being as efficient or tasks aren’t getting done, listen to your gut. It is when leadership isn’t paying attention from the get-go, then that’s when problems start to emerge like wildfire. Paying attention is the first step.”
Pay attention when things aren’t starting to run the way they should. Hoping that the situation will improve on its own or that the team will figure it out is neither a plan nor a strategy. It is likely an indication that you could use some outside perspective.
CEOs often complain about a lack of accountability in their organizations where nobody is clear on what they should be doing. This brings up even greater issues within the team. Luckily, these can be solved by following standard operating policies that enforce accountability in the office.
Felda often finds that companies that lack standard operating procedures make assumptions on what each person is supposed to do which causes more issues. “Standard operating procedures, in my professional opinion, are paramount in having an organization that runs efficiently and effectively,” she said.
When the staff knows exactly what their responsibilities are, and those of their colleagues, the workflow is much smoother and time is saved.
Improving Standard Operating Procedures on Your Own
If a business owner is not quite ready to bring in somebody from the outside, there are some things they can work on with their team to improve operations. To start, pay attention.
Felda recommended looking for where your pain points are. Instead of dwelling on what’s causing them, look at how you can improve or fix them.
Sometimes it can be impossible for you to find your problems when you are sitting inside of it. Being a CEO or a business owner, you might think you know your business best, and you most probably do, but you can’t always be objective about it.
And as Felda says “If you’re sitting in the forest and can’t see the trees because you have zero objectivity about what you do, then that’s when you need somebody from the outside to come in and help you.”