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Policies and Procedures (P&P) are not the most exciting part of running a company. Nevertheless, they are one of the fundamental elements shaping the organization. Lack of them will stop the business from flourishing. On the other hand, I know plenty of examples when overdesigning them turned to organizations‘ killers. If that’s the case, how to set your best-fitting P&P?
Imagine your company as a football team – there are eleven players, and the half of them are not aware of the rules of the game. Most of them know you expect them to score. Some of them know that using hands is not allowed, but other rules like foul or offside are just blurred. You don’t need to be an expert at football rules, but can you imagine Messi during the World Cup waiting for a pass in an evident offside position? Impossible.
These five team members oblivious to the rules represent 50% of what your employees do on a daily basis. Those are wasted opportunities and conflicts between people arising every day and setting up a range of internal policies is the perfect remedy for getting rid of them immediately.
Let’s assume a few critical factors here. What I’ll be talking about is the company still not more than four years old, and with the headcount recently broken thirty.
If you’ve experienced 30% Y/Y growth, it means that you need to hire ten new employees just to address growth. If you have employee turnover rate 10% Y/Y, it means that you need another three guys just to fill the gap. In total, you need around 13 new employees. It means that you have to onboard one person every month!
Simple as that – in these circumstances, people start to have conflicts around tasks’ ownership (to be precise – I mean overlapping accountabilities). Some tasks are being done by two different people not even aware of each other, and others are just left, without anyone picking them up.
They also start asking “obvious” things like how to book a taxi and who pays for it? Where is the source code repository and who gives permission? What kind of laptop can I buy? Do we have education budget?
“Hey, wait a sec… I have solved this problem!” All right, let me guess – the information about roles, compensation access to the tools you use is given via email sent a while ago to another employee and countless times forwarded? Your frustration is growing, and you spend more and more time answering questions from the newly onboarded.
Welcome to the dark side! All the above thoughts lead us to one clear conclusion. You won’t make it without “Policies and Procedures” involved here. There are many ways to organize the process but let’s keep it simple and structure it around “value chain.” That approach has several advantages:
In one word – establishing Policies and Procedures gives you the perfect momentum to make ownership clear and make others responsible for existing processes.
Let’s start with the major areas. It differs from business to business, but the core is mostly the same, so my suggestion is to structure the project it in the following order.
You might be thinking that i.e.: strategy or operations are more important and should be taken care in the first place. Of course, you are right. However, the first stage is only about two things: starting the snowball effect and assigning owners.
So you should start with policies and procedures you already have somewhere in the emails (text, attachment, etc.) or memos. I am 100% sure that you already have that somewhere – time to collect and shape it in the right format.
Another aspect to take into consideration is ownership. If you are a regular organization, you will have up to three people up to the task. Remember to dispatch the processes equally. The outcome of the exercise should be a table like this one:
|Process||Process Owner||Phase||Handover from:|
|HR||Marek Antoniuk||Phase 1|
|Administration||Tomasz Onyszko||Phase 1|
|Legal||Grzegorz Chuchra||Phase 1|
|Sales||Andrzej Kazmierczak||Phase 1||Grzegorz Chuchra|
|Strategy||Andrzej Lipka||Phase 2|
|Operation||Marek Antoniuk||Phase 2|
|Marketing||Tomasz Onyszko||Phase 2|
|R&D||Grzegorz Chuchra||Phase 2|
Make sure that you will not over-allocate one guy and leave another behind. And If you are doing a handover to the new person, be sure that they are an owner of the subject from the early begging, and they are responsible for writing down the procedures. As mentioned earlier, writing down your policies and procedures requires the definition of the Process Owners.
The Process Owner is the person who is the best match to take care of one process end to end. The person should be both skilled and with passion about the given subject. The “Process Owners” are usually CFOs, CSOs, etc., so make sure that you have the right people in the right seats.
To avoid wasting your team’s time, my suggestion is to start from yourself and treat your process description as a template for the rest of your company mates.
BUT, the Policies and Procedures should not be like a manual! Write it down more like a guidance but not step by step.
If you do not fight the temptation of making it overwhelmingly detailed, you will experience a few problems downstream. First, it will take a long time to write them down. Second, you will have a hard time with maintenance afterward. Third (and the most important), you will start treating your employees as “mindless sheep,” and if you are doing so, they will start behaving as you expected.
Here you have a scheme of a sales process described and depicted as an example from the company I rule myself – ready for you to start writing your P&Ps.
OK, so right now you have your Processes listed, so do the Process Owners, who are about to describe policies and procedures in a given domain, and the process template itself. You can now move to the next step – facilitate the environment, assign the roles and organize logistics for going live.
Let’s delve into it now…
You are well aware that there are pieces of information that cannot be disclosed with everyone in your company. Even though I am a huge advocate of full disclosure and transparency, I have learned the hard way that some information can be disclosed only once a person achieves some degree of awareness, experience, and knowledge. Most likely the security clearance will be tied directly to the role (indirectly to the organizational unit like department, section, etc.).
Here’s how we structured it at Predica (and it’s been working up until now without any major incidents):
|Project Owner||Level 2||
|Head Of Business Unit||Level 3||
Level 1 – Around 75% of all policies and procedures is shared with each employee.
People are naturally tempted to build a fortress, to put as many checkpoints as possible to protect information. My suggestion is to fight that and reduce the number of levels to an absolute minimum. At Predica we have only two levels of security with regards to policies:
Level 2 – Remaining 25% of policies related to finance, compensation and salaries disclosed with 50% of the employees (Project Owners and Head of Business Units).
The security clearance should be assigned once you finalize “Phase 1” and you have everything ready for go live.
It might sound surprising, but the way how you would exchange information with your employee might affect P&P awareness significantly. The times when you gave employees full printed volumes with instructions are far behind us.
The Policies and Procedures these days must reflect the world we are living in. They must be available for everyone, adjustable and easy to trace whenever something changes.
There are plenty of tools on the market, and I have experimented with a few of them. They are all well suited for large enterprises, but most of the features are useless when you have less than 500 employees.
So I decided to stick to the easy, straightforward and cheap concept. We are using Microsoft OneNote tool stored on Office 365. And it gives everything that we needed. There is only one issue related to the different levels of security, but we figured out that each level of safety will have another OneNote (so if you are HoBU you will have “Policies” and “HoBU Policies” OneNotes).
The fundamentals of policies and procedures are ready. Each Process Owner has described processes according to the template you have provided. The only thing left is security clearance and assigning it adequate permission. The pictures below present how it looks in our case.
Once you assign security, you are ready to make an announcement and release Policies and Procedures in your organization.
Congrats, you’ve made it! The P&P 1.0 is ready and available. Now you must take the lead once again and make sure that you will move to “Phase 2 – Finalization” and close the project.
The second phase will be harder to execute because most of the materials, in contradiction to the previous phase, will have to be made from scratch and combine all the different visions your top management has about your company’s development (if you can’t remember, just come back for a second to the table at the beginning of this article). The second, equally important aspect here is the persistent change in your employees’ behavior. If they ask you about the roles’ accountabilities etc., you must always redirect them to the right procedure. Just point it out on their screen.
What is important here, is that this phase doesn’t have a strict deadline – it is rather a psychological effect. By the time you finish, the policies and procedures will be essential for your organization and they will live their life. I can tell you in our case the whole project took 6 months. And it is absolutely worth the time and energy invested in it.
The Policies and Procedures is a significant step for each organization – it is similar to transforming the battlefield forces from guerrilla warriors to a regular army and it has similar consequences for your company.
The moment it becomes formal, it allows everyone to expect certain actions from each other, it gives framework and communication interface upon which a team member can perform tasks. Remember the P&P is a constitution for your company and should be treated with similar gravity.
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