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The Power of SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures)

I stand in front of a room full of fighter pilots. Today I am 'Shogun 1', and I'm briefing 'Shogun Warlock Viking'; a 12 aircraft strike package aiming to destroy a power station. The enemy will be doing their best to protect the target, so Shogun Warlock must prepare for a furious air-to-air fight. Once we have dealt with the enemy fighters, Viking will use precision air to ground munitions to take out the power station. Shogun Warlock will then clear the egress path for Viking, and we'll all return home for tea and medals.

The complexity of the above task cannot be overstated. From the deconfliction plan through the target area, to the rules of engagement, to the ranges at which we will commit towards enemy fighters, there are thousands of individual tasks by individual pilots which need to be completed.

Fortunately, there are known procedures for virtually everything we will do. Since the birth of the Royal Australian Air Force in 1921, pilots have been writing down the best way to do business. Each new generation of aircraft, each new capability, brings a host of new procedures, and everything we do is continually refined and improved. A lot of our procedures have been formed from accidents. There are many paragraphs in 'Standard Operating Procedures' which have resulted from the death of a young and gifted pilot.

In your business, writing down your core processes gives you distinct advantages.

It dramatically decreases the time to plan and brief a task. When I prepare my briefing for Shogun Warlock Viking, I can ask myself "If I say nothing, what will 'go off the rails' today?". This question allows me to focus on the things which are different on this particular mission, and allow SOPs to be used for everything else. This is equally pertinent to the business world; a restaurant group CEO recently told me that his operating manual for a single restaurant is 800 pages long! EVERY process is written down, meaning greatly reduced effort when opening and operating a new venue.

It also gives everyone a common standard to work towards. When you find that something has gone wrong, you can ask "Did we follow the procedure? If not, then why not? If yes, then does the procedure require amendment?"

I highly recommend writing down EVERY core process your business has. The time invested initially will be repaid over and over again as your organisation grows.

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