There can be a number of reasons why organisations need to write policies and procedures. Let’s look at the most common reasons.
To understand the business
It may come as surprise, but sometimes senior management doesn’t know how the organisation works on a day-to-day basis. This can often be because one organisation has merged with another. While someone may have worked in one business for many years, they may probably have little knowledge of the company that has joined with them. If departments are merged or reorganised, then this can mean senior management can feel they don’t have control.
Sharing the vision
The opposite can be true, in that the organisation plans to take over another organisation. In this case, senior management will have a vision for the company that it needs to communicate.
The company might have pivoted to a new place in the market, or it might want to make sure everyone understands its new values or image. Again, it needs to communicate this to staff, and they need to underpin the day-to-day actions of staff.
Changing the business
Whenever there is change in the organisation, such as the introduction of new systems, this needs to be communicated to staff.
Doing things better – continuous improvement
Many organisations aspire to improve continuously. To do this, they need to capture and record iterative business improvements.
In high growth companies, the individual departments may have the ability to define their own working practises. This high growth could mean they haven’t had time to document them. All the expertise is retained in people ’s heads, and you might want to rely less on individuals (in case they are no longer available).
To prevent a mistake happening again
This is another key reason why organisations create new policies. Something goes wrong, so they write a new policy. Over time, they can end up with more and more policies and procedures that give conflicting guidance.
This could lead to a situation where staff should be referring to different policies each time they do a task. For example, if they want to email a file, they should look at the anti-virus policy, the data protection policy, the portable media policy etc. The information can be spread across different documents. There’s been no account of how people work.
To train new staff
This is another situation where you need to share the vision and best practice. You can do this face-to-face, but there is a limit to the time existing management have available. Good policies and procedures that are documented can reduce the demands on existing staff.
To have a single source of truth
Policies and procedures can give the organisation a single source of truth that everyone can refer to. This might be needed for disciplinary reasons, or for consistency and best practice reasons.
What goes into it?
In the next post, we’ll look at what should go into policies and procedures, and the ways to create and deliver this type of information.