Monday, July 11, 2016

Before you write new policies, ask these questions

It is always interesting for me to look at the policy manual of organizations I work with. I am  not a fan of any policy that is unnecessary - which applies to many of them. Too often policies are written in the aftermath of a foolish action by an employee and rather than dealing with the individual concerned a policy is written that now pertains to the whole organization. 

Writing a policy does not keep people from doing unwise things. Sometimes you have to do remedial work with those who skirt the edges. In fact, writing policies for everyone because of an individual's bad decision breeds cynicism rather than respect. In addition a conversation with staff around a topic can be far more meaningful than a new policy promulgated in the policy manual. And less intrusive.

Policies are meant to be channel markers on non-negotiable practices that protect the organization and promulgate fairness. Organizations should make it clear that they expect employees to use common sense, protect the organization and one another in all of their actions. If there is not a commitment by a staff member to these three things they either need remedial help or don't belong in the organization. However, writing new policies to ensure compliance is rarely helpful and often counterproductive.

Before you write a new policy ask these questions:

  • Is it truly necessary or are we trying to solve an issue through a policy rather than a conversation with an individual?
  • Is this a topic that is best a conversation with staff or does it need to be a policy?
  • Are we making it clear to staff that we expect them to use common sense, protect the organization and one another in all their actions?
  • Will this policy generate cynicism among staff or will it make sense to them?
  • Do we annually have a conversation with staff around all policies so that what is written is understood and lived out?
  • Have we vetted the policy with key staff members to understand how it will be interpreted and responded to.
TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at tjaddington@gmail.com.

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