The SOP Continuum

One of the reasons startups are able to beat large incumbents is that they can move faster and stay closer to the customer. Only, as the startup grows, more process and bureaucracy is introduced as people specialize in smaller and smaller functions. I like to think of this as the SOP Continuum:

Seat Of Pants (SOP) <———-> Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)

  • Seat Of Pants – Everything is done on the fly. Nothing is documented. Action is fast but quality and consistency can suffer.
  • Standard Operating Procedure – Everything has a process and documentation. Things are done as quickly as the plan allows and bottlenecks can be common. Consistency is high.

Entrepreneurs would do well to pay attention to the SOP Continuum in their own companies and find the right balance based on the stage of the business.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the SOP Continuum?

Thanks to Karen from One Team Consulting for the idea.

2 thoughts on “The SOP Continuum

  1. Your post challenges me to think how will I solve this in my mega startup plan which will have cross cultural presence in US /India/China .I need to solve the puzzle by retaining this cultural complexity in the plan because this the key entry barrier for future competitors .So how to be complex yet be simple.

    The closest match my brain scan finds is OOP structure in C++
    Where each object inherits functions from the main class but the data is handled by self .

    In large organisations though they already create sub units they expect the unit to document (data) as per top management(main class ) .In oop being a digital world this is possible but in practical world because of huge outside variables it cant be uniform.

    So simple solution , break each product line/unit into a separate startup , let them follow lean without any documentation and then and only final result is called for and also documented .

    Will scare the top level micro managers because this means too much freedom and budget time overruns without monitoring but then it is your choice , speed or process adherence .

    The challenge here is finding quality people to run each unit which is too tough but atleast in my case I solved it at fundamental level by only creating limited number of own objects (rest outsourced and keep changing contractor if they dont deliver) to the main class and remaining lean sacrificing the ego massaging win of being a big massive employee count organisation.

    My choice is speed and remain a lean company .others run your startups your way .Good luck to all.

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