Self-Writing (almost) Video SOPs

Over the years, we’ve asked people if they love writing standard operating procedures (SOPs). Their answer is almost always NO !!!

SOPs (AKA work instructions or written procedures) are the lifeblood of standard work and continuous improvement. How can something that basic to operational excellence be so universally disliked? Is it because writing them is tedious and boring? Or because it is a distraction from “important” work? Or, maybe folks can’t be bothered reading and following them?

The following screenshots show a different breed of SOP. These are standard PDFs that link or embed “how-to” videos to reinforce the text instructions. You can watch the video, read the text and graphics … or just print the document. The instructions will be clear and complete.

Here is a working example from a factory setting. Open the link and click on the images in the PDF to play videos that are streamed from You can follow along with the text instructions.

This second example embeds the video inside the PDF. It will work on a Windows PC if you download the file and open it in your desktop Acrobat Reader.

If a task succeeds in the video, you know there is at least one valid way to perform the task. Even better, DeeperPoint has developed fast and easy ways author these SOPs. Our process doesn’t (yet) handle every possible type of SOP, but it can make most of the ones that are routinely used in manufacturing plants, industrial facilities and distribution centers. Anyone can do it with off-the-shelf technology:

  • Arrange video cameras to permanently watch key production processes (see DeeperPoint’s approach to continuous video monitoring).
  • Wait for your most effective worker to perform the task as they normally do … or ask a trainer to do it a few times.
  • Extract video clips of good practice and watch them carefully.
  • Write an informal script that explains how the task is being performed.
  • Add play-by-play audio commentary
  • Rewrite the text script to be the text bullets in the written SOP.
  • The text SOP can be authored in MS Word from templates that include the headers, authorization blocks, etc. that your organization requires.
  • Insert the re-voiced video into the text document (embed or link) and publish it as a PDF.

The surprise is that this type of SOP is often easy to make. The key is to start with a video of someone doing the task correctly. Write the SOP from the video, then tidy up the video and place it in the SOP to counterbalance any inconsistencies or confusions that creep into the written instructions. Which would you believe … the confusing written instruction or the video of someone succeeding at the task? Overall, the extra video handling time is largely offset by the simplified and more forgiving writing and checking chore.

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