Policies and procedures.
It has a nice sound to it, donít you think?
Policies and procedures. Something like Pride and Prejudice or
Of Mice and Men.
But if you have spent any time writing
or revising them, you may not find the sound so appealing. To you,
policies and procedures may sound more like instruments of torture than
helpful explanations of whatís what. In case you havenít had the privilege
of experiencing policies and procedures firsthand, let me offer a
Many companies present their policies
and procedures without distinguishing between the two, but technically
there is a difference. Policies are the rules and regulations that govern
an organization. Procedures are the steps taken to implement or abide by
these rules and regulations. Often, a policy statement is preceded by a
general explanation of the policyís purpose or rationale.
1.0 Explanation of policies and
1.1 The policies of an
organization stipulate the conditions affecting employees: when they work,
how much they are paid for overtime, how many days of sick leave and
vacation they accrue, when and where they may smoke, and who gets the
corner office with all the windows.
1.2 The procedures provide
step-by-step instructions for carrying out those policies: how to get on
the payroll, request time off, apply for a reclassification of job duties,
request a pay increase, and appeal a demotion (not that thereís a
connection between the latter two).
2.1 The advice offered in this
column is meant to help you write clear, precise policies and procedures.
It is intended for mature audiences only.
2.2 Willful disregard of this
advice may subject you to embarrassment, humiliation, and ridicule. It
also may be harmful to your career.
Consult with the appropriate people to ensure that your understanding of
policy is correct and that your procedures are accurate and complete.
Be consistent in wording, structure, and format. Switching from complete
sentences to fragments or from command statements to declarative sentences
will confuse your reader.
Number each item. A nifty numbering system like the one Iím using here
makes reference easy.
3.4 Number each section
separately and consider using letters as headings. For example, you might
use ML-1, ML-2, ML-3, etc., for policies and procedures relating to
maternity leave. This enables you to add, delete, revise, or reorganize
sections without having to renumber the procedures throughout your entire
document. Pretty slick, donít you think?
3.5 Use a two-column format when
more than one person or office is involved. Identify the actor in one
column and the action to be taken in the other. This "play script" format
enables all the actors to see how their parts fit into the whole.
3.6 Indicate on each page the
date the procedures were written or the date of their most recent
revision. Few things are more annoying than having to redo something
because outdated procedures were followed.
3.7 Use unambiguous,
easy-to-understand language. Although policies and procedures are formal
rules, they donít have to sound like legal documents. Use "will" rather
than "shall," and "these" or "those" rather than "such" or "said."
Compare: "Failure to follow said policies shall result in immediate
termination" to "Failure to follow these policies will result in immediate
termination" or "If you fail to follow these policies, you will be
3.8 Keep the paper copy of your
policies and procedures in a loose-leaf binder. This enables you to pop
things in and out and move sections around.
3.9 Have fun.