Standard Operating Procedure for remodeling

Mar 8, 2023

I remember the first time I heard the phrase, “standard operation procedure”. I got a little excited. It just had a nice ring to it, and I couldn’t believe that it was a thing. I was even more impressed when I heard that it was so much of a thing that it had its own acronym – “SOP”. If there was any initial doubt of this being something that would somehow change my life… the acronym put me over the top. I was all in.

What is standard operating procedure?

Anything you do repetitively and consistently could be written down as standard operating procedure. But that puts a very lackadaisical spin on the heart and soul of why such a modality should exist. It is – in reality – only referenced and used when the result of not using it might end in catastrophe. “Remodeling” happens to be one of those categories.

Joan Crawford played a role as a single mother, desperate for money, and took a waitressing job. She learned that job so well that she created a small empire. In one scene, she barked at one of her waitresses, “Don’t walk back to the kitchen empty-handed, pick-up plates and take them back to the dishwasher!” So, in proper procedural terminology, her employee training handbook would read, “for the most efficient use of your time and to increase customer satisfaction, as full plates go out to tables, always return with empty plates. This keeps tables clean and the dishwasher continuously busy.” This scene jumped out at me because it’s what I used to say to my guys on the jobsite. “Rather than wait until the end of the day to clean up the jobsite and be tripping over debris all day, every trip out to cut something on the sawhorses – or for any other reason – take an arm full of trash to the dumpster.”

We have lots of procedures, isn’t that the same thing?

I worked with a company for about a year that had procedures – lots of procedures – but no standard. For many years, every time something fell through the cracks at this company, it seemed that the solution was; “we need another procedure!” It was chaos. Nobody could follow the 34 steps of their remodeling design-build procedure. It literally had to be printed on an 11” x 14” page or the type was so small you couldn’t read it. Standard operating procedure – simplifies. Procedure upon procedure – complicates. The statement, “it is our standard operating procedure that all emails are answered within one business day” simplifies operations. Everyone knows the benchmark. On the other hand, creating a ten-step procedure for employees to follow in order to check emails, what system to use, how to organize emails, how to respond, etc., might never state the core purpose of all those procedures – which is; “we reply to emails within 24 hours”.

Don’t such strict standards squash creativity?

There’s a great deal of comfort in knowing that everything is being taken care of and everything will be taken care of. With standard operating procedures in place, you’re given a space for creativity that can’t be achieved when there’s the possibility of chaos. Creativity and imaginative thinking cannot be cultivated if there’s fear or the possibility that the wheels might fall off!

Of course, there are people who cannot work within certain perimeters or guidelines – and that’s okay! There’s a popular bumper sticker, “all who wander are not lost”. This being a true statement, I’m not sure this is the person you want tearing walls out of your house and coordinating with plumbers, electricians, inspectors and suppliers to efficiently and effectively complete your project!

When I visit a home and start to review a possible project, the only thing on my mind is the client’s wants and needs. I absolutely can bask in the knowledge and comfort that I’m going to follow my standard operating procedures. I know I’m going to schedule time to estimate the project, that I’m going to schedule time to revisit with the client if they want to continue the conversation, that I’m going to get the necessary information and pricing from my trade partners, that we’re going to walk through the process with the designer and the architect, that we’re going to work through selections and scheduling for a start date, and that the builder we’re working with has another whole set of SOP’s for the completion of the project.

The bottom line? Having a standard operating procedure, (you have got to be tired of reading this phrase by now), is what allows me to do my job so well. It allows me to be comfortable, confident, considerate, patient, imaginative and kind. Working within a structure is a great comfort; to myself, to the client and to all involved in the project.

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