Governing Board Internal Improvement Strategic Planning Systems/Processes/Improvement

In one post each month, we are targeting the top internal issues that our clients have identified as preventing their organization’s ability to run at its best. In this post we examine policies and procedures.

Policies and procedures are necessary for a smooth and efficient organization with less conflict and rework. However, there is often confusion between what is a policy and what is a procedure, and how to create P&P’s that are effective. In their strategic planning internal assessments, many of our clients commented that their policies and procedures were lacking or ineffective. In this blog post, we intend to clarify the definitions and give you some sound tips for writing good policy and procedures.

The Definitions

Writing policy and procedureLet’s start with what is a policy and what is a procedure.

  • The policies of an organization are the clear, concise statements of the parameters  by which an organization conducts its business.  In essence, the policies are the rules that staff abide by as they carry out their various responsibilities.
  • The procedures are the instructions or steps that describe how to complete a task or do a job.

One of the simplest and clearest explanations I have heard is this. If you were leaving on a driving trip, the policies for your drive are the rules of the road you follow, i.e., speed limits, one-way roads, no passing zones, etc. The procedures  for your driving trip are the directions you are following to get there, i.e., go 75 miles west on Interstate 40 until you reach Nashville, then take Interstate 65 south for 25 miles, etc.  Policies govern how you drive, procedures tell you what to do to get to your destination.

Writing Good Policies and Procedures

At PGS, we create policies to guide how we operate within our business. We use a template that includes the following:

  • The policy name and division of the organization to which it applies (finance, sales, executive and so on)
  • The purpose for the policy. This is a short statement that defines what we will have when this policy is in effect.
  • The theory for the policy.  Similar to purpose, but coming from a different angle, the theory explains why this is important.
  • Finally, we list the elements of the policy itself or specific rules we all follow in regard to this policy.

For example, we have a set “Admin Day” for PGS, a day when we all try to be present in the office or working via Skype without scheduled client meetings or outside appointments.  In clarifying Admin Day, we have a written policy.

The purpose for the Admin Day policy reads: To assure that communication between teams members is adequate, that the condition of the company is known to team members and that problems are identified and solved promptly.

The theory states: Maintaining strong understanding among team members re. the condition of the business and solving problems that inhibit productivity of team members will result in a high performing team and organization.

The policy itself for Admin Day includes bullets like: “Every Wednesday is PGS’ designated admin day.”, and “Team members are expected to participate in our staff meeting each Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.”

Procedures at PGS have a different look.  Almost all of our procedures are written as flowcharts. For example, we have a facilitator flowchart created for each phase of our Vision Navigation® strategic planning process.  These flowcharts diagram the general steps that must be followed to assure that each client gets a high quality end result from the session.

Procedures are also frequently written as a series of steps in a word document, like the steps to enter billing information into Quickbooks.

Final notes on developing policies and procedures

Policies and procedures are essential for an organization to keep everyone operating from the same core principles and completing their tasks in the way that assures a sound, dependable product each time.  The only caution in creating a set of policies and procedures: be careful to avoid overkill.

We have some previous blogs on when to create policy and when not to that will help you to determine when a policy is essential and when it isn’t.  Similarly, procedures are important when a deviation from the process will result in rework or a poorly done product, or for a highly complicated and complex task. Procedures become overkill when they are created for simple tasks or tasks that can truly be done effectively in a variety of ways to achieve the same outcome.

What has been your experience? We would love you hear your thoughts. Drop us an email to start the conversation.