Process Characteristics Sheet & Standard Operating Procedure

A Process Characteristics Sheet (PCS) and a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) are procedural documentation tools that are typically used together.

Process Characteristics Sheet

A PCS defines the owner, objectives, resources required, process inputs, process steps, process outputs, controls, and metrics for a process.  It provides the information needed to take the input from one activity and output successfully to the next input stage.  The owner of the process maintains the PCS and ensures that it remains up-to-date.

Process Definition:  A process is a set of activities that interrelate or interact.  Processes use resources in order to turn inputs into outputs.  Processes are interactive as the output from one process becomes the input for another process.  The output of a process is the product, which can be services, software, hardware, or processed materials.

Click here for an example PCS.

Standard Operating Procedure

An SOP describes the sequence of activities and responsibilities in quality-critical processes, particularly those that involve more than one person.  The SOP provides key information that a skilled but unfamiliar person would need in order to successfully assume a role in the procedure. Overall, the details in an SOP standardize the process and provide step-by-step how-to instructions that enable all employees performing an activity to consistently perform the task.

Procedure Definition:  A procedure is a method for conducting a specific process or activity.  Procedural documentation can vary in complexity. For example, the procedure for "Vessel Data Reporting" could be filling out "Vessel Trip Reports" and noting "Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Data".

Click here for an example SOP.


  • This tool provides information on an activity answering the who, what, when, why and how questions that surround operational procedures.
  • The PCS and SOP documents serve as instructional resources that allow employees to act with minimal direction, reassurance or guidance;
  • The step-by-step written procedure helps hold employees accountable because employee expectations are documented and their actions can be measured against the SOP;
  • Communicating procedures that anyone in the operation can follow with consistent expected results will ensure the activity continually provides high-quality products and services;
  • A PCS or SOP provides direction and structure by documenting an organization’s most important successful practices that require documentation.


  • An operation-specific PCS or SOP can be created by documenting the steps taken when successfully performing specific tasks in an activity and by following a generic template;  
  • Assess areas of the operation in which standard procedures are necessary - start with the activities that are most communicated;  
  • Common items to address in a procedure include: rationale for SOP, detailed description of the process based on best practice/standards, monitoring actions, accountability, corrective actions and date of last review;  
  • Procedures should be available for employees to review and should be incorporated into written job descriptions and performance reviews for alignment;  
  • Procedures can be utilized to train new employees and for corrective action/refresher training for all employees.

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Last updated by on June 13, 2018