In our last post, we began a series on improving your organization from 5 angles:
- Defining a system or process
- Outlining keys for sound policy to support your systems
- Improving and fixing established systems
- Clearly communicating changes to systems and policies so that the changes stick
- Creating an organizational culture that supports all the above
In this post we cover #2, keys for sound policy. For this post, we talked to consultant Jen Jarvis who has spent much of the last several months updating PGS’ existing policies and creating those that were needed. The following is her list of the keys for creating sound policy.
The primary purpose of a policy is to ensure that the systems you establish in an organization are running as intended. With every policy, there is a system and standards that the policy relates to. In other words, the system explains what you are doing or what is happening, while the policy details the guidelines that your systems operate within.
For example: The system tells you how to fill an order, the policy tells you how quickly it should be done. The system tells you the steps to resolve a customer complaint, the policy tells you how much can be returned to the customer. The system tells what forms to fill out for vacation time, the policy tells you how much vacation time you accrue each year.
Here are Jen’s 4 keys to creating and maintaining sound policy.
- Policies should make people’s jobs easier and answer their questions. Policies provide clarity and certainty in the workplace. Businesses by necessity are continuously changing and evolving, regardless of what industry they are in. Because of constant change, leaders need to capitalize on every opportunity to create as much certainty as possible for employees. Policies are a great tool for creating that certainty.
An example is a leave policy. What leave looks like and what qualifies as paid time off should be clearly explained, then people don’t have to think about it or wonder or worry. Policy creates a level of security and transparency in which employees don’t have to wonder what is going on.
- Policy should be held at the highest level so that it doesn’t have to change often. Procedures and processes will change more frequently as new technology emerges and new opportunities arise. However, policy can usually stay constant throughout. For example, you might get a new piece of equipment that changes the procedure or system on how the phone calls come into a business, but the policy on speed of answering and responding to those calls should not change. Or a new product line might open the organization to a whole new set of customers and ordering procedures, but the policies on how quickly customer orders are filled and problems handled will not change.
- Good policy should be as simple as possible. Before you look at what goes in a policy you are writing, ask yourself, why am I writing this policy and what is the question this policy is answering? What is the certainty it is giving? Keep the policy as simple as possible. After you have drafted it, reflect on your policy. Did it answer the ”why”, the initial question? If so, you are good to go.
- Policy needs to be thoughtfully rolled out. How you establish a new or updated policy is critical. There is a tremendous return on investment for explaining a policy, allowing time between introducing it and making it operational to gather and respond to questions and feedback. There are four phases to rolling out policy effectively: release it, review it, revise it, then roll it out in final form. More on that in the communication post, #4 in this series
And that wraps up keys to good policies. We have a couple previous posts on policies if you have a hankering for more. Check out When to Set Policy and its counterpart, When Not To. Or we have a good, quick read on the distinctions between policies and procedures.
And as always, if you have questions or want to see a topic covered on our site, drop us an email.