We all know the importance of having good policies and procedures (P&P). They help create consistency, efficiency and good business practices among staff. They also provide a mechanism for disciplinary action when needed. But what makes for good policies and procedures?
These are the items that create and uphold our business practices. They tell the world what our intention is in regard to specific items. Policy is created from situations we have encountered that have had a negative outcome. We have learned from our mistakes.
Policies are intended to protect the owner, staff and customers, and the business’ reputation. Policy should be adhered to at all times. When everyone is playing by the same rules, it helps keep the business running smoothly.
But policy is not “law.” It needs to be reviewed periodically to determine if it is still viable as the business grows and changes. For example, even though “No Refunds” may be posted on the office wall, there are circumstances where you may need to bend the rules and offer refunds. It may be hardship, goodwill or in anticipation of additional future business. Sometimes it is just the right thing to do.
Some businesses get stuck on their policies to the detriment of the business. This is short sighted to say the least. Policies should be created with a bias toward the business, but with an understanding that in the right set of conditions it may be overridden.
When you understand the reason for the policy, you can be flexible enough to make better decisions about the business. The expectation is that staff and supervisors will use good judgment. Policy is there to protect and help, not hinder.
While these also create and uphold our business practices, procedures are the “how to” component of the P&P duo. When we need or want something done a certain way, the process needs to be spelled out.
Sometimes the policy outlines the procedure, and sometimes the procedure is the policy. More often they are intertwined. A policy that reads “no smoking on the property” really needs no further clarification nor should “clean the bathroom every day.” However, for a policy such as “first month free storage,” a procedure needs to be in place to make sure it is applied in accordance with your business requirements.
Writing policy is easier than procedure. Everyone has purchased a product with “some assembly required” only to find that the directions were really bad. You know that whoever wrote the procedure never used it. The same is true in business. What may seem very clear to the writer may be completely misinterpreted by the user.