A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a set of step-by-step instructions compiled by an organization to help workers carry out complex routine operations. SOPs aim to achieve efficiency, quality output and uniformity of performance, while reducing miscommunication and failure to comply with industry regulations.
The military (e.g. in the U.S. and UK) sometimes uses the term standing (rather than standard) operating procedure because a military SOP refers to a unit’s unique procedures, which are not necessarily standard to another unit. The word “standard” can imply that only one (standard) procedure is to be used across all units.
An SOP should always be written with the reader(user) in mind. It should follows the five Cs – clear, complete, concise, courteous and correct.