How Effective are Policies and Procedures?
If you are writing policies and procedures documentation, then at some point you will need to answer the question “How Effective are Policies and Procedures?” If you can measure your documentation against some common elements, then you will have a method for managing, reviewing, and communicating the effectiveness of your policies and procedures.
Does Your Policies and Procedures Documentation Work?
Well-written policies and procedures will display some common elements necessary for effective communication.
Policies and Procedures Common Criteria
What should your policies and procedures documentation have in common? Effective procedures are reviewed for a consistent style and format to ensure usability. Industry “best practices?” can be documented in auditable criteria and used to improve your policies and procedures documentation.
The first thing to check is document control. Your documents must contain a method for recording the author, reviewer, release date, and revision level (version number). Other helpful information includes the Title, document number, compliance criteria, and dates for each event.
Metadata is data or information that describes the procedure, which is placed at the start of the procedure. Procedure metadata includes: purpose, scope, definitions, responsibilities, and references. This information can be stored in a policy and procedure template to communicate your common elements to everyone else.
The procedure itself describes the actions and activities that answers the questions who, what , when, where, and why you wrote the procedure in the first place.
Policies and Procedures Review Criteria
To ensure your procedures are effective, action oriented, and grammatically correct, set up some common review criteria based on the 7 “C”s:
- Context . The text describes the current activity performed.
- Consistency. References and terms are used consistently to ensure consistent results.
- Completeness. Information is clear and logical without confusion.
- Control. Actions have clear targets, criteria or measures that are reviewed.
- Compliance. Conformance criteria are referenced, explained, or used.
- Correctness. Grammatical and spelling errors have been removed.
- Clarity. Paragraphs are easy to read, understand, and follow.
Once your procedures are reviewed they are ready for distribution. Your procedure deployment can be added to your review process too. Do your employees read your procedures or use them? How would you know? One thing you can do is perform regular internal audits or assessments to see if your employees are using your procedures.
You can also use document management software for managing your policies and procedures files. Now all users in all locations can access the same information at the same time over the internet. You will be able to run reports that track compliance of required reading. Users are regularly notified when a new document version is released and made available. And, only the current document version will be accessible by users in all of your locations.
Another way to ensure employees use your procedures is to design in controls that include measures with targets that employees can strive for on a periodic basis. What gets measured gets managed. A well-defined process includes measures and targets used to control the process. Data from individual process are collected into dashboards that can be easily reviewed on a regular basis. Use the metrics as your daily management system to ensure you are getting the results you expect from your business.
Policies and Procedures Metrics
What metrics have we discussed? We started with consistency of industry standards using document control blocks. Next we looked at procedure metadata, review criteria, and procedure distribution. Each one of these can be measured, variance tracked, and audit criteria developed to ensure procedures are effective.
Measuring your documentation against some common elements provides a method for managing, reviewing, and communicating the effectiveness of your policies and procedures. To get the most value out of your policies and procedures documentation, you will need to use it over and over again. Updating it as needed. Now you are managing by procedures that you built. To see some procedure examples, download free policies and procedures from Bizmanualz.