Preparing to Create SOP Training

I received an email the other day from a person who is tasked with creating a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) training for an online project management software. Additionally, one of the goals is to emphasize the importance of consistently working through the procedure and the impact it will have on the organization. The “Why” of the training process.

The email also indicated a need for an exercise that will demonstrate the need to follow through and the importance of having good information. I don’t know if the course is to be face-to-face or online instruction

The person was looking for recommendations that would provide some ideas and suggested tools to achieve this and that would be appropriate for this audience. So here are some ideas. Feel free to add more.

One of the really great books on designing training like this has been written by my friend and colleague Ruth Clark. She has written a book called Developing Technical Training I recommend buying this book right away. Here is the link to the book on Amazon. Start on page 59 for procedural information (but read the entire book if you have time.)

I also have a book which addresses software training
Look on pages 93-96 specifically but the entire chapter 3 covers simulations for learning which might be helpful in this case.

When teaching a software procedure to learners, we know that you should break down the procedure into its discreet parts and then allow the learner to practice the various parts of the procedure and then put it back together again as final practice.

One method I often suggest is that, throughout the learning situation, you provide the learner with a number of different scenarios. Each scenario describing how the procedure would occur on the job. This helps for a number of reasons.

One is so that the learner understands the context in which they are required to perform the new procedure. When should this procedure be used?…for special cases, whenever a certain piece of information is received? What situation triggers the procedure? Learners need to be cued as to when they should follow a particular procedure.

Second, we know from learning research that the more methods used to encode information, the more likely the person is to recall the information when needed. A scenario provides various “paths” to the information as opposed to simply memorizing a sequence of steps. Also, the scenario should be as close to the “real life” situation as possible so the transfer of learning will be easier when the learner is required to actually perform the task on the job.

Your scenarios should progress from:

  • Simple (which means…at the most basic, just a review of the steps…this might even be so simple that it is not really realistic…too simplistic but the basics are covered.)
  • Typical (which means this the usual situation the learner will encounter on the job, this is how the procedure typically unfolds while on the job)
  • Complex (this is the exception and rarely happens, however, if a learner can address this scenario, he or she is probably aware of the nuances of the procedure and ready to perform the work)

Your instruction should at least encompass one version of each level of scenario.

Unfortunately, creating the scenarios is not always a simple task and usually you need to enlist the help of a Subject Matter Expert who typically has no idea how to create the scenario (they usually want to give way too much detail.) So work to keep the scenario focused on the learning you want to achieve.

Here are some ideas on the subject from Wendy Wickham’s In the Middle of the Curve: How am I Gonna Use This?.

Again, don’t know if it is face-to-face or online. If it is online, development software like Camtasia, Captivate , ZebraZapps (cloud based)or Storyline 2 seem appropriate.

At the end of the lesson give them an impossible scenario, one that will be difficult for them to accomplish. Let the learners team up and work on the problem. I call it the Kobayashi Maru of software training. This “impossible” problem helps the learners to work harder and really gets them to think through the software, not just the “how” but the why if you design the impossible problem effectively enough. Tell them it’s hard and you don’t think they’ll be able to solve it or get through the content in enough time. With the right audience, this technique is highly motivational.

    Additional thoughts on the subject

Three Steps for Teaching Software
For New Software Training: Spend a Full Class on the Help System

Also, I do address software simulations and development in a portion of my book below:

Posted in: Design

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1 Comment

  1. Blair Rorani October 9, 2014

    It can also help to start by showing what would happen if there was no process or the process wasn’t followed. Usually a short story is helpful. Think of it like you’re selling the SOP like you’re selling a product. You start by highlighting the problem or pain it is solving.

    ‘You have to do this’ won’t necessarily create a question in people’s minds that learning how to follow the SOP will answer.

    You can reuse this problem-solution story in your later scenarios where you challenge learners to use the SOP to navigate the same scenario successfully.


Karl Kapp
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