Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pondering Policy in the New World

Regardless of the type of organization you are operating, all businesses need strategies, plans, practices, policies and governance. The only impact that size has is the budget and expertise at hand to develop these tools.

Today I am thinking about policy and the important role that it plays in business, especially in a world where texting and Facebook status is considered ‘communication.’  Here are some useful tips to consider incorporating into your business.

1.  How do you show up in the world?

“How you do what you do defines who you are”,  said one of mentors to me many years ago when I was working as a corporate planner for a large company.  The answer to this question is expressed through your principles. In drafting principles, here are some thoughts to help guide the process.

  • What is your purpose? 
  • What is your position on the treatment of people?
  • What is your position on pricing?
  • What is your communication style?  
  • What is your position with regard to giving back and sponsorship?

2. How do you do things? 

Policy is another word for “the way we do things”.  In my work as a publisher and strategy and communications consultant, I often see cracks in the way business is done which can place the business at risk.  Policy sets out what decisions will be made in various scenarios. These policies are supported by practices.  Following the practices leads to consistency, offsets risk and improves the communication process. People know what to expect.

3. Write it down. 

In the private enterprise world, who you are and how you do things needs to be documented so that those who need to know will know.

Policies are needed for human resources (if there are employees), communication (if you plan on talking to anyone ever including your employees, your community, your sponsors and affiliates and the media), pricing (if you plan on selling something to someone), privacy (if you are collecting personal information of any type) and social responsibility (if you are planning on giving money or services away).

When developing a policy think about the following:
1.  Who is the audience for the policy?
2.  Who are the users of the policy?
3.  What risks are being addressed by the policy?
4.  What is the purpose of the policy?
5.  When will the policy be renewed?
6.  Where will it be available.
7.  How will it be upheld?
8.  What are the consequences of the policy not being upheld?
9. What is the review / reporting process to ensure policies are upheld and effective.

4.  Communicate it. 

How policies are communicated are dependent on their audience. A communication strategy will help to define who needs to see the policy, what might their reaction be, how are they expected to use it, and what the feedback (if any) process will be.  All policies can and should be shared internally with staff. Policies can also be shared on the website and in company communications.  You just need to remember that what you write is what you must do.