Standardise, Maintain and Improve as a framework for SOPs

Author: Peter Davison

In this short blog, Senior Consultant Peter Davison looks at how the framework, Standardise, Maintain and Improve can be a good place to start when creating Standard Operating Procedure documents or reviewing current procedures. 

Where do you start when creating or starting to review your current procedures?

What is the first Standard Operating Procedure you should create?

A good place to start is your process for creating a SOP, knowing that the approach will be the same for all subsequent SOPs.


Standardise, Maintain, Improve

This is the PMI SMI Cycle for managing processes.

Creating and maintaining SOPs is a critical process for any business.

So, let’s take a look at the elements to consider in each part of the SMI Cycle:


This is, in essence, the actual SOP. It should contain all the elements that are required to define and operate the process.  This will represent the best-known way today. It will not be perfect, it may never be perfect, but it is documenting how things are done now and can form the basis for future improvement.

You may want to consider these elements at three different levels.

Level 1

  • Purpose, which will include why the process exists and who it is for (SIPOC)
  • Responsibilities around governance
  • Training and skills requirements
  • Any other HS&E or legislative policies

Level 2

  • Flowcharts outlining the key steps in the process
  • Roles and responsibilities for operating the process (RACI, Integrated Flowchart)
  • Guidance on what to do when problems

Level 3

  • Task level instructions
  • Visual Aids
  • Checklists


These are methods to gather knowledge about the process. The key questions to consider are:

1. Are we still working to standard?  Process confirmation

2. Do we need to change the standard?

  • Monitor process metrics. These might not indicate whether the standard is being followed but might indicate if the standard needs to be changed.
  • Problems are arising even when the standard is being followed
  • Do we need a ‘One Point Lesson’ (OPL) to prevent reoccurrence of problems until we can standardise?


When there is a need to improve the standard, then the SOP for Creating and Maintaining SOPs must be followed to avoid chaos and confusion. The SOP should be updated when it needs to be, not according to some arbitrary date.

This need will be determined using this information:

  • Changing customer needs
  • Process confirmation which may suggest a better way has been found
  • Any OPL’s which have been written which should be built into the new standard
  • Periodic process reviews, outside the normal Process Confirmation schedule


Finally, remember SOP’s are primarily for those operating the process and should include:

  • The agreed way of working
  • Be written by the operators with the support of managers/team leaders
  • Be written in a way which makes them easy to understand and not complicated by unnecessary detail
  • Be readily available at the place of work


About Peter

Peter Davison is a Senior Consultant at PMI, a coach and Six Sigma Black Belt, with over fourteen years experience working in the field of business improvement. Prior to joining PMI, Peter worked for leading global paints and coatings company, AkzoNobel, where he led, developed and delivered improvement projects throughout the world, at all levels of the organisation including coaching project teams and individuals. He also has a degree in Chemistry from Northumbria University.

If you have any questions for Peter, please do get in touch.

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