Monday, January 19, 2015

Keeping knowledge from walking out the door --- SOPs

Over the last two years, I have been working on the formation of the SOP Cooperative, a cooperative effort among water utilities to share standard operating procedures. This Cooperative was born at a water and wastewater utility knowledge management workshop. The question on the table was, “How to keep knowledge from walking out the door.” The clear answer to this question was, we capture knowledge in our standard operating procedures (SOPs). Then when asked, “Do you have good/current SOPs for all your key processes,” the answer was commonly no or we’re working on it.
Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are a good place to document knowledge. When properly developed they can be used to:
  • document the current state of practice,
  • ensure that important aspects of a task are not overlooked,
  • remember how to do infrequent tasks (i.e. annual or season procedures)
  • ensure consistency between different individuals or crews
  • training
  • capture and preserve operating knowledge
There is also significant value in the process of developing SOPs. We often find as systems begin to discuss operating procedures and begin the documentation process, they learn a lot, especially when the same task is done by a number of different individuals. We find that different individuals develop their own tricks and more efficient ways of doing things. Occasionally we find misconceptions about the process and/or “wrong” ways of performing the task. SOP development provides the opportunity to discuss, share, and capture knowledge.

The SOP Cooperative was formed to facilitate the sharing and discussing procedures between utilities.  There will be more about this in future posts.

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