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The Good Question: What Should Be Asked To Capture An SOP?
Ryan Ogden Headshot

Written by Ryan Ogden

Ryan is the Founder of Momentum and he built it to help small to medium-sized companies systematize their operations to scale their business.

One of the most powerful questions when capturing an SOP is, what does good look like? If you can remind yourself of that question, it will transform the way you capture an SOP. If all you did was ask that question, you’d be off to a great start, but we have a list of 10 other questions you could seek as you ask the question, what does good look like?

#1 – Steps
What are the step-by-step actions to perform the procedure?
A lot of times, if your subject matter expert (SME) has been performing the procedure for years and years, there can be so much knowledge that it takes time to get step-by-step information. For example, they might say, “well, I do that sometimes,” or “It’s hard to explain; I just have to show you,” or “sometimes I do this extra step, but not every time.” When interviewing a SME, you can start with what good looks like and then document the step-by-step actions to review with them.

#2 – Outcomes
What are the desired outcomes?
Another question about what good looks like is what are the desired outcomes. It is good to ask what is the end result or outcome. Also, ask what should not happen or if there is anything that team members should avoid.

#3 – Metrics
What metrics might be used to specify “good?”
Are there any metrics you might use to describe what good looks like? For example, customers could provide feedback or take action, which could be measurable. Are there existing metrics that can be reviewed? If metrics don’t exist, you can start with what good looks like.

#4 – Customer
What should the customer Think, Feel, or Do?
This question is about the customer experience. What do you want them to think or feel? A SME might say they want the customer to have confidence after a meeting or be satisfied with the product, and through this process, you gain knowledge that can enhance the procedure. Ask them to tell you about the customer and what they think, feel, or do and what would good look like.

#5 – Triggers
What triggers this to be done, and what are time expectations?
Certain tasks might trigger an action that needs a procedure to be performed, and it needs to be performed right away to be done to standard. It is important to find out if there are triggers and if there is a time expectation to start and complete a trigger.

#6 – Bad
What does bad look like?
If we ask what good looks like, then we should ask, what does bad look like? What you’re looking for is anything that should be avoided. You can ask if there are common mistakes or what happens if you forget this step. Also, ask them to tell you what a disaster situation looks like and what happens, and have them describe it. What would’ve good looked like?

#7 – Why
Why is this important (to the customer, company)?
For a simple procedure, you won’t necessarily need a why. For example, if your procedure is for logging into a system, you won’t need a why because you’re getting access to a system. For more complicated procedures, you should explain why this is important. Once that is documented, you can ask for an example of what happens if I do it wrong. Do they have a story of where that went wrong before and the implications involved?

#8 – WIIFM
“What’s in it for me (WIIFM)” (for the Doer)
This question asks what the personal impact is or what’s in it for me (WIIFM), for the Doer. A Doer might say they will avoid negative implications if they perform the procedure to standard. Organizations could give rewards or other incentives to help people perform procedures.

#9 – Prep
What steps are needed to prepare for this procedure?
You want to keep the steps short, so if there are multiple steps to prepare for a procedure, you should also make the Prep a procedure. There isn’t a correct answer on how many steps are too many, but if you like there’s a lot of content, we recommend splitting them up into their own procedures.

#10 – Wrap-Up
What steps are needed to wrap up after this procedure?
Similar to Prep, but after the procedure is performed, what steps need to happen? Again, if there are a lot of steps, you could make them a procedure.

Again, you won’t need to ask all of these questions for every procedure, but we recommend reviewing this list of 10 other questions you could seek as you ask the question, what does good look like?

What Does “Good” Look Like?

  • Start with the exact question – The first question you should ask is, what does good look like? Not, tell me what happens when things go well. As you ask follow-up questions, you can rephrase the question too.
  • Interview format – In most cases, we recommend an interview format with an interviewer and an interviewee. Of course, there are cases where you will need to observe instead of interview. For example, if the procedure is highly specialized, you might need to observe to understand the steps and instructions. You can self-interview, but you are more likely to miss or not clearly explain actions or even misspeak.
  • Ask other relevant details as follow-up questions – Use the above list of 10 questions you could seek as you ask the question, what does good look like?
  • Key to “one-hour SOP” – The Good Question is key to the one-hour SOP. To have a great SOP, the answers to The Good Question are crucial to getting your SOP drafted in an hour and then getting it into practice and use in your organization.
  • Some answers will be in separate documents – At times, you might need to refer to other documentation, for example, codes or separate instructions, and you’ll need to review any additional documentation required to perform the procedure.

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