I have found it very useful to use SIPOC diagramming to solve many of the problems I face when helping customers developing SOPs. SIPOC diagramming is a technique used by Six Sigma Black Belts for years in process improvement. The literal translation of SIPOC is Supplier, Input, Process, Output, and Customer.
The beauty behind the SIPOC is that it is easy for the user to understand and helps to keep the team focused. A procedure can be represented in one page versus the seven to ten pages in a typically written document. I use the SIPOC to articulate and gain approval on the actual procedure steps. The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is then drafted from the SIPOC by business writers. The SOP is simply a representation of the SIPOC. Therefore the need to review the procedure document is reduced and the approval process is dramatically simplified.
To maximize the benefits of the SIPOC, I modified the traditional version to include sections I refer to as "Critical Prerequisites (CPR)", "Points of Interest (POI)" and "Inter Procedure Touch Points (IPTP)." CPRs are used to identify procedure triggers and the critical prerequisites that must be met before the procedure can begin. POIs highlight information that is of a special interest. Spending authority, warnings, and special considerations, are examples of POIs. If the output of a procedure step touches another procedure, I note the output and the receiving procedure name in the IPTP.
My motto is "Always be prepared." Therefore, based on my previous experiences, I populate the SIPOC with procedure steps that normally should be followed. The best format for preparing and publishing SIPOCS is through Microsoft EXCEL. Everyone knows how to use EXCEL. Also developing training decks is simplified when based on an approved SIPOC because they normally answer the questions that students might ask during a training session.
I have prepared a the I SIPOC TEMPLATE for general distribution in the Microsoft EXCEL. It is formatted for legal size paper and prints with headers, footers, and line numbers for easy reading.