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One of your organisational documents that’s probably gotten a workout lately is your Crisis Management Policy. The Technology Policy and your HR Policies have probably been working overtime, too. As would your Debt Recovery Policy, your Travel Policy, your Fund Reserves Policy, your Leave Policy, your Asset Disposal Policy… dare I say most of them have had their veneer of dust disturbed in recent times.

Given we have no idea what’s next in the Covid-challenge, now is the perfect time to assess where current policies flew and where they failed, plus what key policies need to be rolled out with urgency.

But before you rush in to reviewing and writing, let’s get strategic and go back to first principles: policy is the centre of good governance.

The best policies:

    √    Set out an organisation’s goals, aims, principles and values – and should do so explicitly.
    √    Create transperency and pave the way for a positive and collegiate work culture.
    √    Provide valuable guidance for dealing with ordinary and extraordinary situations.

Effective Policy Is Never Written From A Place Of Fear

This is so important that I’ll repeat it:

Policy that promotes what you DO want will produce what you do want, not what you DON’T want.

    √    Policy shouldn’t be written to avoid risk (that’s what the risk register is for).
    √    It shouldn’t be written because something terrible happened, and you think a policy will protect your legally exposed bits.
    √    It shouldn’t be written to control your workplace and infantilise your staff.

Policy written from fear doesn’t serve either the organisation or the individual.

Good policy must be written with realistic goals for both parties. Strict rules are guaranteed to create a negative organisational culture and create a rod of constant vigilance for the organisation’s back. This, in turn:

    √    gives rise to fear in staff and increases the chances of bullying
    √    locks down creativity, innovation, independence and risk-taking
    √    creates stagnation, disengagement, disenfranchisement, cynicism – you name it.

Consider these as some aims of good policy. It should:

    √    Create opportunities, not react to difficult circumstances.
    √    Empower staff, not limit their confidence to respond to workplace challenges and anomalies.
    √    Open the door to staff engagement and creativity, not stifle their contributions.

Good policy, policy which stimulates, empowers and activates stakeholders, should be written with a positive attitude. It should be underpinned by the principles of the organisation you want to become and the workforce you want to nurture.

You’re attempting to CREATE an outcome, not AVOID an outcome.

Good Policy Isn’t About Your Staff – It’s With Your Staff

Preparing to review or write policy is an opportunity to get the whole organisation on the same page as to what really matters.

A mature organisation formulates policy through a robust or democratic consultation process – different stakeholders must be able to provide their input and road-test the policy drafts. This leads to greater ownership of the policy as well as the organisation’s principles and values.

Get your staff on board at the start, and you’re more likely to have them on board when it comes to roll out and implementation. Including your stakeholders in the process will help you create, together, a robust, workable and respected policy.

Your draft policy should be tested by staff on the ground.

There’s no point putting all that energy into a new or updated policy unless it works for all stakeholder groups. It’s worth spending more time now on consultation and testing (and checking the Complaints Register) and less time later fixing up glaring errors.

Covid might have highlighted that your organisation has urgent policy needs, but don’t rush these preliminary phases – policy is always best when it’s consultative and has been tested before being rolled out or adopted.

Writing good policy is proactively and strategically creating your organisation’s future.

Take time to design the organisation you’ll be proud of and work with those who care about your organisation – the people whose livelihoods depend on it.

Click this link to stay in touch and I’ll send you my next post on how to actually write good policy – including the 4 words that experts from the legal fraternity say you should eliminate from your policy vocabulary right now.