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Writing Policies and Procedures

 

Purpose

This document describes the process of documenting policies and procedures and provides guidelines for development.

Policies and procedures prescribe how an entity will function and be administered.  They are the rules and methods of conducting business.  Internal controls refer to processes that help ensure efficiency of operations, including the safeguarding of assets, achievement of goals, the reliability of information reporting, and compliance with laws and regulations.  These elements combined with a clear vision and a defined strategic plan form the framework of strong General Management, proper governance, and successful enterprise. 

Definitions

Purpose and Mission

All enterprises have a purpose and mission.  Since policies and procedures ultimately support a mission, we suggest getting your organizations mission statement, if available.

Strategy

The Strategic Plan is the master plan, blue print, or game plan indicating how the organization will achieve its purpose and mission.  It is developed for corporate, line of business, functional, and operating levels.

Policy

A course of action or rule adopted for prudence or expediency in order to implement strategy or achieve the mission.

Procedures

Specific conduct, methods, routines, processes, and actions used to comply with policies.  Procedures are normally tied to policies, but may simply be an instruction sheet on how to do something.  Like the procedure for changing the toner in your fax machine. 

Internal control

The process of ensuring the procedures and policies adequately supports the strategy.

General Management

The overall flavor, tone, and direction provided by the senior managers and directors of the enterprise.

Why put Policies and Procedures in Writing?

 

Governance

 

·        To maintain control and describe the method and systems of management.

 

Compliance

 

·        To comply with Sarbanes – Oxley, government regulation, and certain audits

·        To comply with best management practice standards.

 

Communication

 

·        So the employee’s, customers, and stakeholders can read them

·        Mandated by compliance requirements

 

Continuity 

 

·        To provide for management continuity

 

Education

 

·        To educate people about the entity.

·        To train new employees

 

Who uses Polices and Procedures?

 

Employees, Managers, Owners/Shareholders, Directors, Customers, Members are all your audience.  Write your policies and procedures for a wide audience.

 

Time Commitment

 

Many people want to know how long it takes to document their policies and procedures.  That of course depends on their knowledge level, writing skills, and the amount of material they plan to cover.  Generally, you may want to plan on 1 to 4 hours per page – start to final edit.

 

How to write Policies and Procedures

 

If you are not familiar with what you plan to write about, then you need to begin by learning more about the subject matter of your document.

 

If you are developing a manual, you should begin with a flexible table of contents.  Individual policies and procedures are like short articles on a specific topic.

 

This document provides the correct form, content, and format for your polices and procedures.  Your policies and procedures must exactly maintain a consistent format and layout.  You can personalize your documents, but each policy and procedure document should:

        State its purpose or intent
        Explain how it is related to the overall management system
        Clarify its scope

        Provide any definitions that will help clarify the document
        Detail any controls that must be applied
        Explain how authority has been divided and distributed
        List the responsibilities and tasks that should be performed
        Identify who is responsible for performing the tasks
        Describe the tasks
        Specify how and when the tasks should be performed
        List any materials and supplies that must be used
        List any tools and equipment that must be used

        Review the document properties and control

 

Separate Policy and Procedure Documents

 

Write the Policy

 

First, begin with the policy. 

 

Second, write the Procedures.

 

For example, assume you are writing “polices and procedures” for oil changes.

 

Begin with the policies or rules:

 

            The business will properly maintain its vehicles

            This policy applies to passenger vehicles and primary drivers

            Only qualified and approved vendors will be used for maintenance

            Oil will be changed every 3 to 4 thousand miles

            Tires will be rotated every other oil change

            A vehicle maintenance log will be kept in the vehicle glove box

 

Next, write the procedures:

 

            Accounts payable publishes an approved vendor list

Vehicle maintenance will be scheduled by the primary driver

            The primary driver completes the maintenance log

            The maintenance log is turned in to the fleet manager annually

 

Keep it simple

 

Simple means short and not complicated. 

 

Style

 

Style is personal.  Ours is quick and to the point with a minimal amount of on page formatting. 

 

Format

 

Title Header

 

Each document needs a name.  Use 2 to 4 word titles.

 

Purpose

           

Give a short description and reason for the document.

 

Details

 

You may have multiple sub headings within the document.  Try building your documents from the inside out.  We generally begin our documents in the details section by listing the sub headings.  We then build the text around the sub headings.  Format and Fonts are usually done last.

 

          Length

 

Well written short documents are best by far.  Don't try impress with how big your book is or how many words in your document.

 

Fonts and Sizes

 

Title - Right justified, Tahoma 16pt font, color coded.

Headings - 14pt Tahoma Bold, Black

Sub headings – 12pt Arial Bold, Black

Body – Arial, 12pt –Black

Footer – Document Name and page number, right justified, 8 pt Tahoma, color coded

 

Document Properties and Control

 

Policy and procedure documents must be controlled.  We use the custom document properties feature in MS Word as much as possible.  The following properties can be included directly in the document text.

Interpretation: Title

Identify the position responsible for interpreting and clarifying this document should any questions arise.

Authorization: Title

The position authorized to make changes to this procedure.

Date Accepted: Date

The date the document was accepted and put in effect.

            Revision Information:

The date this document was revised and by whom.  Describe any changes made and reasons for the revision.

            Related Documents:

List and hyperlink any other documents that may be affected by changes or that are related to this document.

            Records Management

            Use this section to site your records retention policy for any procedures or forms referenced in this procedure.

            Detailed Steps

            Use this section to list and describe any detailed steps for tasks referenced in this procedure. 

            Use Book Marks for quick links in the document.  Customize the Task Names.

                Task Name

    1.      Step 1

    Type a description for this step here.

    2.      Step 2

 

Managing Page Numbers and the Table of Contents

 

Policy and procedure documents are normally part of a manual or handbook.  Your manual will likely be continually enhanced and modified.  Therefore, simple page numbering and document labeling is important.

 

The method we use is to build the Table of Contents in an Excel Spreadsheet.  This enables users to sort the Titles on various criteria and easily build custom manuals with minimal effort.  Try using the document name with the page number of the document in the footer as specified above.  This technique will provide for maximum flexibility.

 

Intranets and Web Sites

 

Intranets and web sites are ideal tools to communicate your policies and procedures.  Feel free to try our intranet.  Our intranet is free to try for 30 days and you can set it up online now from the free trial area of our web site.

 

Templates

 

Our pre-written templates will save you time and provide a professional and flexible solution.  There is no reason to reinvent the wheel.

 

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