Writing Effective Policies and Procedures – The Development Stage

Written policies and procedures should be common within organizations both large and small. As an organization grows, it is a good practice to have them in a written format that employees can easily refer to. Larger organizations may already have a written document in place, but the challenge may be in managing them effectively.

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The Importance of Written Policies and Procedures

If workplace policies and procedures did not exist, an organization could face a lot of chaos and confusion. In order to operate effectively, clear communication is essential. Consequently, developing a document that reflects the philosophy and daily operations of an organization achieves this goal.

Moreover, policies and procedures ensure that employees have the information needed to do their jobs. If clear procedures are in place and employees are required to read them, there should be few excuses for not completing a work task or completing it incorrectly. However, if procedures are either absent, outdated, or not clear, there can be room for error, which can decrease productivity.

Policies Versus Procedures

Before understanding how to effectively write policies and procedures, it is important to know the difference between the two documents. Campbell (1998) suggests that the goal for these types of documents is for the organization to express “what, why, and how” things should be done. Policies represent the “what” and “why”, and procedures represent the “how.”

A policy can be associated with the following:

  • Rules
  • Standards
  • Guidelines

In addition, a procedure can be associated with the following:

  • Instructions
  • Protocol
  • Process

Guidelines for the Development of Policies and Procedures

It may be helpful to designate a person or team of people that will be responsible for the research, writing, and updating of the document. The first step in the writing process is the development stage. This stage is comprised of four steps:

  1. Planning – the plan must be in writing and should reflect organized and focused thinking and a clear timeline.
  2. Analysis – identify the elements that will determine the best writing design for the nature of the policy or procedure.
  3. Research – gather all the information that applies to the policy or procedure being written.
  4. Prewriting – organize all the information in a clear way that will eventually transition to drafting.

Writing policies and procedures are an important part of the daily operations of an organization. The challenge is to ensure that the information communicated is effective and reflects the goals and philosophy of the organization. The first step of the process is to dedicate a person or team to the project, and to spend adequate time in the development stage prior to writing the document.