How Do You Write a Policy and Procedure?
I wonder how many of our clients, on receiving our company policy and procedure manuals, have asked themselves what in heck they got themselves into — “There’s a lot of stuff here…where do I begin?” Well, like a lot of things, it’s probably not as difficult as it looks initially. First, you took a step in the right direction by using our templates to develop your company policies and procedures. It’s always easier to start with some of the work already done for you, rather than you having to start from scratch. How do you write a policy and procedure?
Why a Policy and Procedure?
You don’t need to write a policy and procedure merely to comply with regulations or industry standards (like ISO 9001). Sure, there’s nothing quite like the threat of fines, legal action, and the scorn of the business community to motivate you, but that’s far from the best reason. Much better reasons for developing policies and procedures include:
- Communicating your business goals and priorities;
- Standardizing processes, behavior, and results;
- Training your employees consistently; and
- Identifying acceptable and unacceptable behaviors (and encouraging or discouraging them).
Prioritize Company Needs and Set Goals
Now that you understand “why”, you need to decide “what.” Of the company policies and procedures you could work on, you have to determine which one(s) are going to provide:
- The biggest bang for the buck;
- A quick return on your investment; and/or
- The greatest good for the greatest number.
Only you know what you need. I can offer you suggestions (like “start with a fairly simple process”) but only you have the intimate, day-to-day knowledge of your organization. It’s your company: you decide.
So, decide which process you’re going to document first. If you have absolutely no idea (you have no metrics and no historical basis for evaluation), try any Bizmanualz policy or procedure. Document your initial design and development process and use it as a baseline for further development.
Give the first procedure a fair evaluation. Don’t look at your first policy-and-procedure development, point out all the flaws you can find, declare the project an abject failure, and pull the plug. Introduce discipline into the development process by setting clear and meaningful (aka, “SMART“) goals and timelines.
If you already have a de facto1 procedure in place, don’t throw it out in favor of so-called best practices that may or may not work for your firm. Now is as good a time as any to document your process. Diagram it quickly in any manner and medium with which you’re comfortable. Simple is best.
Compare Your Process with Bizmanualz Best Practices
Bizmanualz has already looked at many companies’ procedures, blended them together to describe “Best practices”, and reasonably modeled these procedures on the Deming, or “Plan-Do-Check-Act”, cycle. You may find that your procedure already looks very much like the PDCA model:
- You develop a set of objectives and a plan (process) for realizing those objectives;
- You implement the plan and immediately start collecting process data (in-process, end-of-process, etc.);
- You routinely analyze the data, to see if the process is performing in line with expectations; and
- You make changes to the process (procedure) in order to improve it and improve your results.
If that’s the case, you don’t have far to go at all.
Personalize Your Company Policies and Procedures
Make the obvious and necessary changes to the Bizmanualz policy and/or procedure. We wrote them generally, like ISO standards, so they’d have the widest possible application. Any resemblance between our procedure and your process is coincidental; that is, you’ll have to customize our procedures – make them your procedures.
- Change every instance of “Bizmanualz” or “the company” to your company;
- Where you have an existing form (e.g., purchase order, customer order, invoice), use it – and make sure field names, etc., on the form and in the procedure agree;
- Change job titles in the “Responsibilities” section and in the procedure itself to reflect your circumstances;
- Change diagrams2 as needed;
- Add visual aids – they add impact and meaning and they complement verbal descriptions very well (especially when they come from your office, your shop floor, your staff, etc.); and
- Leave out what you don’t need. An entire procedure or just part of one — if it doesn’t apply to your situation, delete it. Make your policies and procedures simple and direct.
Verify and Validate the Procedure
Do you have too much information in your procedures? To make your procedures usable, focus on the things people need to be told in order to execute the process, and leave out pointless directions and unnecessary explanations.
The people responsible for implementing the procedure have to put it to the test. Oh, you could write a procedure and thrust it on an unsuspecting workforce but until it’s subjected to “real world” conditions, the results you see may not be the ones you want or expect.
They have a vested interest in the company, too – if it does well, they do well. So, keep them in the loop on matters that directly affect them, to ensure their understanding and cooperation. Even if they’re not directly impacted by the procedure in question, keep all employees informed of this — and most — company matters.
Write a Policy and Procedure
Now, publish the tested-and-verified procedure. Distribute the procedure to those responsible for executing it, analyzing it, and training employees. NOTE: A document management system, or DMS, will help you address publication and distribution, as well as improve document control.
Hold a training session on the procedure – make sure trainees are not only capable of doing the work, but that they understand the process and the objectives, as well. Finally, execute the process. Collect the data from measuring devices and routinely analyze it. Look for anomalies and trends in the data, evaluate the process, and aim for continual improvement.
1Just because you haven’t documented it doesn’t mean you don’t have an effective process in place.
2We’ve been using Microsoft Visio to build diagrams. Unfortunately, Visio is not automatically included with any version of MS-Office, so far as we know. There are many alternatives to Visio, though – any search engine will help you find them – so your organization need not be constrained by a lack of Visio.