People talk a lot about policy. They say things like, “Our policy is…” or “We need a policy on…”, but what exactly is policy?  Is policy necessary in an organization?

 

What is policy?

Policy is a single decision that applies to all similar questions from this point forward. It is a settled direction in which all organized activity goes.  Policy is a consistent way of relating to organizational operations and personnel.  And, policy is a consensus of what leadership and membership want.  In short, policy provides an atmosphere for decision-making that clearly defines the what of the decision

In order for your organization to function smoothly, everyone connected to it must work cooperatively with everyone else.  One way to facilitate teamwork is to let people know what they can do and what they cannot do.  This, in essence, is policy!

 

Policy is a necessity!

It is also a great tool for leaders to use in their organizations. If members of an organization have a series of clear written statements of policy, then they have a basis for making good decisions. These decisions will be in alignment with the overall bearing of the organization and the organization is harmonious.

However, a lack of written policy can create an unharmonious vicious cycle because the leaders have to re-decide today what was already decided yesterday. If leaders will make decisions and state them in the form of policy statements, then other people can apply these decisions to similar problems without the leader having to be involved.

Good written policy statements not only help organizations be in harmony, they also help with communication. They serve as fences that as long as someone is staying inside of the fence they can make a decision even if they are a thousand miles away. This frees people up to make decisions at the operating level and causes the organization to be more efficient.

 

Four mistakes regarding policy.

However, there are times when written policy is being used incorrectly.  The wrong use of policy can create more problems than it solves.  Below are some mistakes that organizations make regarding policy.

  1. Not Having Policy Stated Clearly in Writing. People need to be able to read and study the policy. If it is not in writing, it does not count!
  2. Not having Coaching and Training on the Written Policies.  Policies must be communicated seven times and in seven different ways. The why of policies must be communicated.  This is especially helpful so that when an issue arises, the leader can refer to the policy and explain that this is why we have this policy.
  3. Not Including the Team when Developing Policy. Policy decisions that are made separately from the group are difficult to administer because they generally do not reflect the thinking of the group. Always include as many people that will be directly affected by the policy as possible so you can obtain the buy in of the group. Also done properly the group generally will bring common sense to the group thereby making a more effective policy statement.
  4. Not Sticking to the Policy and Making Too Many Exceptions. When you make too many exceptions to established policy, you actually have no policy at all. Limit exceptions and you avoid confusion and trouble.

 

As you can see, there are great benefits to written policy statements in an organization and there are ways that written policy can be misused.  As a leader, what is one area of policy that you need to write down and make known to your organization?

 

Check out the other leadership blogs for more information!