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Write it right.

EVERY SECURITY MANAGER FACES the problem of how to ensure that subordinates perform their duties in a manner approved and desired by their organization. Two principal factors to satisfactory employee performance are effective training and supervision.

A critical element in training and supervision is written standard operating procedures (SOPs). They inform employees of the preferred methods of handling job situations. SOPs also can help security managers

* train new employees and retrain experienced employees,

* monitor organizational performance by codifying a standard of satisfactory performance,

* compare compliance with established procedures in individual employee performance evaluations, and

* evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of existing operations.

To develop an effective written SOP, the security manager must become familiar with the specific area of work or job that the procedure is to cover. One of the most popular methods for studying a job or position is the task analysis.

The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) describes a task analysis as follows: "Task analysis is a method of determining specific components of a job to identify employees' actual work activities. It specifies in precise detail and quantifiable terms the skills, knowledge, tools, conditions, and requirements needed to perform the job." [1]

"Tasks are part of a work hierarchy that begins with jobs," it continues. "Each job is composed of tasks and subtasks or elements. The tasks are related sets of actions that are necessary for the completion of a job objective. They are further broken down into steps (for instance, secretarial tasks would include typing and answering phones) and substeps that must be taken to perform a major task. For example, the substeps for typing would begin with:

* Turn on typewriter.

* Insert paper in typewriter.

* Set margins at least one inch on all sides.

* Adjust for double spacing." [2]

The basic method for conducting a task analysis is to collect all information concerning the task or tasks to be covered by the SOP. Possible sources of information include training materials, correspondence, position descriptions, and existing SOPs. When possible, a manager should also observe the task being performed by an above average performer and talk to that person as well as supervisors about the task.

The next step is to prepare a task listing. ASTD describes task listings as follows: "Task listings or inventories are accurate task statements describing the work activities of employees in specific occupational areas. This is a format for specifying the actual job tasks. It involves a process of organizing the tasks, determining their importance, detailing the steps, and putting them in proper sequence." [3]

Some of the possible uses for task listings mentioned are as follows:

* "Discover different jobs and tasks, their relationships to each other, and the requirements for successful performance of the task.

* Identify training that should be modified or completely eliminated. Outmoded or irrelevant information may be identified and cut from the curricula.

* Determine critical tasks for employees' occupational competency and certification tests.

* Illustrate the range of activities to provide a basis for trainees and supervisors to form realistic perceptions of the job." [4]

Once the task listing has been developed, a description of each task must be prepared. ASTD states, "A logical sequence of task statements or descriptions should accurately explain a job in its entirety. The statements may be brief or detailed, depending on the purpose of the job description." [5]

When these have been completed, the security manager should discuss the task listing and description with those employees who ar thoroughly familiar with the job in question to make certain the listing and description are accurate. Once the manager is assured of the information's accuracy, he or she can then develop the SOP. Exhibit 1 contains a sample of a completed task listing for a security clerk. Exhibit 2 contains a sample of a task description for a task listed in Exhibit 1.

One method professional trainers use in analyzing tasks and complex operations is an algorithm. ASTD describes an algorithm as "a flowchart format for recording tasks. The analyst outlines the flow of work activities in sequence specifying the relationship between work inputs, data and outcomes, and illustrating the processes that materials, data, and personnel undergo." [6]

An algorithm is also ". . . an efficient way of capturing the decisions, discriminations, operations, processes, procedures, and knowledge pieces the learner must master." [7]

In developing an SOP for complex operations, it may be difficult to list all the tasks and describe them in an understandable narrative. For complex tasks or tasks requiring several possible decisions, the manager should consider using an algorithm.

An algorithm uses several graphic symbols to represent a process. Some of the basic symbols used in preparing the sample algorithms are shown in Exhibit 3. Using them as graphic aids in your SOPs offers another means toward understanding the procedures and, hopefully, improving your employees' performance.

Exhibit 4 uses an algorithm to illustrate the investigative assignment procedures for a security investigator in a hypothetical investigative unit.

Once you have thoroughly analyzed and documented the operation you are researching for the SOP, verified its accuracy, and resolved any differences between the procedures the employees are following versus what the organization wants them to follow, you are ready to begin preparing the SOP.

While there is no set formula or style for preparing SOPs, establish a standard format. By doing this, employees become familiar with your format, which will make preparing and modifying SOPs easier in the future. Effective SOPs

* cover routine situations and expected emergencies,

* contain concise individual task statements when possible,

* use basic vocabulary and define jargon,

* use short sentences when possible,

* present processes and required tasks in logical sequence,

* attach copies of required forms, preferably with a completed example,

* are organized in a user friendly, standardized format, where important information can be quickly located,

* contain an effective date and/or date of revision,

* are reviewed periodically to ensure they reflect current procedures, and

* are prepared on a word processor to make changes easier.

Properly prepared SOPs can help in developing and maintaining an efficient and effective security operation. For managers who are faced with this task, the above suggestions should be helpful.

[1] American Society for Training and Development, "Be a Better Task Analyst," Info-Line, 1985, p. 1.

[2] Info-Line, p. 1.

[3] Info-Line, p. 7.

[4] Info-Line, p. 7.

[5] Info-Line, p. 8.

[6] Info-Line, p. 10.

[7] This section is adapted from Ron Zemke and Thomas Kramlinger, Figuring Things Out: A Trainer's Guide to Needs and Task Analysis, (New York: Addison-Wesley, 1987), pp. 47-67. The specific quote is located on page 53.

About the Author . . . Gerald L. DeSalvo is chief of security for the American Institute in Taiwan in Taipei. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:writing standard operating procedures using algorithms
Author:DeSalvo, Gerald L.
Publication:Security Management
Date:May 1, 1991
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