Business Policies: Agents of Change.
Policies. Procedures. Governance.
Reading the above probably didn’t inspire a proverbial rainbow of emotional responses, did it? Maybe you even groaned. At best you acknowledged that they are “necessary.”
But I find policies exciting. They make for important, creative, and rewarding work.
This is because policies are ultimately a way to align the strategic objectives and vision of a company with the behaviour of its employees – read: a brilliant opportunity to get everyone on the same page. In my experience, the process of crafting them also unearths inconsistencies in underlying processes and therefore offers the opportunity for consensus.
They are blueprints that tell each person within your organisation what they need to do and how to do it. If you embed them within your organisation correctly, they also have the power to manage that behaviour on an ongoing basis.
They are essential in times of organisational change, such as digital transformations or migrations to new platforms because they are at once both a blank slate for good practice and a beacon for anyone who is unsure of what is happening and what they need to do in the “new world.”
"...I find policies exciting. They make for important, creative, and rewarding work."
The common problem with policies
Unfortunately, policies are often just a paper shield, created in a half-hearted attempt to meet regulatory requirements, destined to be skimmed by end-users once and then relegated to the back of the metaphorical shelf, gathering dust, existing only in case of a transgression to add legitimacy to a defensive “we tried to tell you so.”
Even if the right intentions are there, the format is often not – if they’re written as a lengthy word document, their fate remains dust and untapped potential.
Improving your policies
For policies to live and breathe within an organisation, they need to be crafted and presented in such a way that individuals will have an easy and enjoyable time reading them.
Make them a guiding, open hand as opposed to a scolding, wagging finger.
This means that the traditional format of a lengthy, homogenous, black-and-white document littered with “don’ts” doesn’t suffice. While it is essential that they be codified in full as an official governance document and recognized as such, the information needs to be presented in a way that is relevant to users, and speaks with them eye-to-eye.
For example, Aiimi achieves this by producing policies in a template that captures the policy position and then breaks down the actions that need to be undertaken by every role implicated in the process of carrying it out. The template captures the policy’s aim , ensuring buy-in from the employee who’s not familiar with every strategic objective. It also identifies compliance measures; i.e. mechanisms which assess and ensure that the policy is followed.
We then shift this information into a user-friendly format called the Policy Book – an intuitive, digital tool that allows for persona-based filtering. The Policy Book allows employees to search policies according to their role, ensuring that they read only what is relevant to them. It is designed to breathe life into what is considered dry subject matter and appeal visually as well as textually. As such, it ensures that individuals want to visit policies because they know they’ll quickly find what they need.
Keeping on track
Think of your policies and your governance as a railroad underneath your company – it’s not what moves you, but it’s what keeps you on track on your way to your strategic objectives.
If you therefore have policies that conflict, overlap or leave gaps, they’re likely to create a mess. It is essential that all policies across an organisation align, fit together, and look alike.
An articulated view of your strategic aims and aspirations is essential to a supportive governance framework. When it is clear, and when policies align, they will manage behaviour and drive change autonomously.
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