Deploying Standard Operating Procedures
The challenges and lessons learned of a global rollout program
What started with a recommendation report to improve access to quality data, resulted in a successful global rollout program, deploying standard operating procedures (SOP’s) in more than 25 locations globally.
After 3 years with over 50 deployments, the program faced many challenges and gathered even more lessons learned. During the program, the delivery model kept being refined and optimized resulting into a framework for SOP deployments (SOP deployment model).
The SOP deployment model outlines the key elements that need to be in place for every stage within the lifecycle of the program.
The very first and basic step is the justification. In other words: how does the initiative align with the strategic business goals? Has the objective been clearly defined? It’s important to seek alignment with other major initiatives and focus on capital efficiency, cost reduction and superior operational performance. Although justification is the first step it remains important throughout the complete program as it’s the basis for the stakeholder engagements and realization and verification of the benefits.
The challenge of stakeholder engagements lies within the complexity of the organization and the need of engagements at different levels: the global level, the local level and the layer that goes between the different teams. For both working on a global and local level it’s important to create an overview of the organizational structures, key stakeholders, reporting lines and tailoring messages for each of these stakeholder groups. Make sure the stakeholders understand and remember the message by visualizing the concept and keeping it simple. And don’t forget: stakeholder engagements are not a one-time exercise, so plan for regular updates.
Governance and Accountability
The concept of governance has multiple dimensions: people, roles, structures and policies, without a single ‘best’ structure. More important, it should fit the organizational dynamics and practices. Most programs have different levels of governance structures to fit the organizational model. That’s why looking at it from an organizational perspective, a program is not a single structure, but a set of integrated and delegated structures.
Program sponsor and steering committee
Large initiatives will mostly impact more than one business area and the outcomes and results of the program have to fit within the overall business strategy and direction. Ideally every program should have a steering committee in place, representing all relevant parties, including the project sponsor, to agree on a direction that will result in the desired outcomes for everyone. The reality is sometimes different and in many occasions an alternative model is being used, which could work as well but requires a very close alignment with the core global team.
The core global program team
When running a global deployment program, it’s important to have a core global program team in place. The global team is required to support and enable all of the program’s day-to-day oversight and global integration efforts. The local project managers report directly to the global team to identify and understand departures from the project plan regarding deployment progress. An effective global governance has clear responsibilities, defined types of decisions, delineate methods of escalating and addresses linkages between the extended leadership teams. On a monthly basis the global team provides a progress report to the steering committee which highlights the progress, risks and issues of each of the local deployments.
Local project structure
The organization structure for local projects within the program is straightforward. By defining every local deployment as a project, it requires a local investment and therefore local responsibility and a local governance. Effectively each local project should have a sponsor, an appointed project manager and a local steering committee, which effectively delivers to the larger whole.
Defining Standard Operating Procedures
Before any deployment can start, the standard operating procedures need to be in place and above all: approved by the leadership (steering committee and community of practice)!
The primary role of an SOP is to describe WHO does WHAT, WHEN, they are written in such a manner as to be applicable in all environments in which the discipline may operate globally. The SOP will state the expectation of the roles and responsibilities of related parties. Recognition, endorsement and agreement of these human factors are central to the successful deployment and implementation of the SOP as a way of working and reflected in the following success factor model.
The naturally higher level nature of SOPs necessitates that they are complimented with documents which provide the detail necessary to enable them to be applied in operational environments.
Hence a successful SOP is supported with process guidelines which assist in the application of the SOP to complex or variable areas. Clearly described standards assist by providing the common structure necessary to unlock synergies and efficiencies across multiple locations. Work instructions suitable to local conditions can be created by utilizing the SOP as an overall framework in which to operate. This approach (SOP support model) allows for the natural variance and demands of locations to be handled whilst retaining a recognizable degree of commonality between teams which can be exploited for cross learning and development.
When deploying SOP’s on a global level in more than 25 locations a deployment strategy is essential. A deployment structure defines the deployment approach which can be used for every local deployment to retain focus on delivery of the key objectives. The deployment strategy keeps local deployments supportable (since it ensures a common understanding amongst all parties of what is to be delivered) and defines intermediate check points in order to take corrective actions when necessary. The first step in defining a deployment strategy is to think about what needs to be achieved at the end of each deployment, i.e.(measurable) closeout criteria. Then work back from the closeout criteria and define a strategy on how to get there. The deployment structure example under consists of six stage gates throughout every deployment. For every stage there are templates and documents provided by the global team and there are specific deliverables expected from every local project, for which a stage gate review is held at the end of each stage.
Communication is key! Besides direct engagement, e.g. with stakeholders, communication itself has a wider spectrum. For example, the different channels of communication:
- Bi-weekly progress meetings
- Bi-weekly progress meetings between the global and local teams are used to discuss local project progress, risks, issues and provide support.
- Quarterly webcasts
- Webcasts are used to inform the community about the progress of the program and discuss relevant topics which impact the community.
- News articles
- News articles are useful to highlight (local) successes; lessons learned and inform stakeholders on progress of the program.
- Community of Practice (CoP) meetings
- The CoP meetings are held for discussion about the content of the SOP’s or relevant documentation that needs to be discussed in a forum of subject matter experts.
- Presentations for different focus groups
- On a regular basis, presentations are held during focus group meetings to update a wider stakeholder group about the program.
- Many 1-2-1 engagements
- In many cases 1-2-1 meetings (preferably face to face) are scheduled ad-hoc and can encompass different subjects, but are very effective.
Another important communication platform used is the SharePoint team site where all (global en regional) project information and documentation are stored to support collaboration. Besides the collaboration, the team site offers configuration management features to maintain versioning and sign-offs.
Last but not least is the sustainability factor. Once the local deployments have been completed a mechanism needs to be in place to create a drumbeat of periodic review and improvement. Example mechanisms are: monitoring tooling or local health checks. It’s the programs responsibility to support the transition and create structures for a sustainable process execution. Once the transition has taken place the expectation is placed upon the community to participate in the sustaining and safeguard continuous improvements. But even when the SOP’s are embedded and become the new way of working, make sure that accountabilities remain sustained.