Yup, I did my first TikTok to explore the effectiveness of training videos.

Updated: Aug 29

Regardless of the type of manufacturing that we are in, it is safe to assume that we have plenty of standard operating procedures (SOPs). These SOPs have a life that starts as a documentation of a specific sequence of events so that they are repeatable and have minimal variation. Over time, events occur that challenge the current accuracy of the SOP which requires management of change. Organizational name changes, undesired incidents occur requiring modifications, or additional attributes are added to make it more relevant to the current dynamics. As a written document, the procedure remains effective because it is easy to modify. So in a world of videos, why hasn’t manufacturing adopted videos faster to communicate SOPs? Why are we sitting back and waiting for someone to convince us that they have a repeatable solution to revise a video as fast as it is to revise a written version?

Guilty. Like many people, this past holiday season with kiddos running around, doing a TikTok has become a fad. I admit, my first was a little different than dancing to a new pop song or engaging in a conversation about politics with my golden retriever Mac. Mine was for an annual ritual my family does each January.


Each January we do the Whole 30 cleanse; 30-days of no sugar, dairy, alcohol, grains, peanuts, or artificial sugars. Typically, in the first 10 days you get pretty angry craving the sugars you are used to. You catch yourself yelling at friends and strangers more than typical. To offset this sugar-deprived yelling in moderation, I have always made these “brownie balls” that are Whole 30 compliant. A lot of friends have taken my slightly morphed written recipe and made it themselves. Making them is somewhat of an art because you have to get the coarseness of the almonds and cashews just right. When I shared the recipe or found a new trick, I always modified my written version to add these additional lessons learned to improve its effectiveness and decrease the variability of this yummy product. It was my SOP.

However, back to TikTok. My oldest daughter challenged me to show friends how to make it within a shared video versus written, so I obliged. Interestingly, I learned that you have to show the entire process of making these “brownie balls” in less than a minute. Not 2 minutes, not the 30 minutes it takes to make them… one minute. Challenge accepted. Putting on my SMED hat (single-minute exchange of dies) I got it going.

Like SMED, the objective is to complete a task in less than a minute. And in the video, I didn’t have time to go into details about adding the figs or go into detail about what cocoa powder I prefer. We had to strip out the waste to build this Grammy award-winning training aid for friends I was brave enough to share it with. For example, in the written version, I tried to describe the texture of each ball, whereas in the video version the tackiness can be seen. Interestingly, I never would of correlated SMED and TikTok if it wasn’t for the challenge to video making some delicious “brownie balls.”

So with the completed video, my instructions will continue into infinity. But there is a problem. What happens if I need to revise the video? If I remained committed to giving the instructions via paper, I could have revised it quickly and had a relevant current version. But with a video SOP, I have to make the “brownie balls” again.

Reflection on my SOP

In my head, I am struggling with the waste of recreating a video for a revision versus just revising a written document. I know it will take less time to watch a video of the recipe versus reading the recipe, but over the life of the recipe, does this value make up for the cost of revising the video? I want to put it into a chart to create a hypothesis. So I wanted to test the life-cycle cost of the SOP, written versus video.

Whether it be a procedure written in text or displayed on video, an SOP will give employees a glimpse of how tasks are carried out. This is especially useful for newly hired employees as it shows them what your company’s processes are when it comes to particular tasks. - Mary Achurra - Outsourecschool.com

Test the hypothesis

The video SOP will most likely take less time to make than the written version. So I typed out the recipe, making sure my formats were right, my units of measure were consistent, and making it an ascetically worthy SOP. This took me about 60 minutes. Even with a few different takes, the video of my batch took approximately 30 minutes.

To test what I wrote versus what I made as a video, I documented the reading time along with an assumption of the time to go back and forth to the recipe versus pausing a video. The reading version I assumed was 5 minutes versus the video version of 2 minutes. I then revised the recipe and assumed that a written revision would take 10 minutes and that making the video from scratch is another 30 minutes. Regardless of the accuracy of this example, it is safe to assume that the revision of a video is magnitudes more than a revised written version. On a written version, you go to the error or area of improvement and revise. Whereas in the video you have to start from scratch or have previously vested in management of change video software for document control.

Image 1 - Life cycle cost of video versus written SOP

Putting it into a chart with these assumptions, I unlocked the view I was curious about. In my head, a head programmed to be allergic to waste, I recognized that redoing the video version multiple times is offset by the time it takes to engage with the SOP. One would argue that a video solution isn’t applicable for all SOPs, and I would agree. One would also argue that not everyone learns better with videos. I agree here too.


However, it does give me a vantage point to explore doing more videos for training regardless of the cost to revise. It also emphasized to me that if the SOP is conducted often (e.g. tool change, roll change, lubrication, inspection), we can probably make a revised video pretty quick from a performed implementation of the SOP with revision in action.

This experience gave me a vantage point I was not completely expecting. It emphasized to me that the document management system and management of change functionality should have the ability to have short, high-impact videos too. Maximizing the value will be within the expediting of version control. Being locked in with a multi-generation mindset of written SOPs, a future should consist of a leaner approach to sharing procedures. Those mesmerized by the waste within the clerical burden of revising the video versus revising the written copy lose focus of the true intent of the SOP. That intent is to make our processes repeatable and to train these processes quickly. The intent is not to revise the procedure quickly.


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