The Streamlined Business Blog

Tip to Keep Compliance Policies and Procedures from Becoming Unusable

Why do so many companies end up writing policies and procedures that are confusing and full of redundancies as well as extremely difficult to update and maintain? The root cause is typically the underlying structure (or lack of structure). Here is a technique that will help. It might seem a little counter-intuitive for some people, but keep an open mind. It works!

In most compliance initiatives, people tend to focus first on the policies so that’s where they start. They write a compliance policy for one regulation and then document the procedures needed to comply with that specific policy. Then along comes another law and they insert another policy with its corresponding procedures even if they overlap. And again, and again. Pretty soon they have an unwieldy mess full of redundant information. Each effort becomes jury-rigged for the specific specification. And then the regulation changes and so they just add on to the mess. !@??#!!!!

Focusing first on the policies is also why in many organizations there is a disconnect between compliance and training. Many organizations can’t train from policies and procedure documents that were created only to meet a compliance need or to pass the next audit so they end up creating a completely separate set of training documents to clarify the how tos. What a waste of precious time and budgets!!

How can you avoid this common scenario of confusing compliance policies?

The COMPROSE Policy and Procedure Pros recommend doing just the opposite of what most people do—Don’t start with the policies! Instead start with your business processes. Map out your operational flow first. Then “layer on” and cross reference policies and compliance nuances.

Start with ACTION (business process) and break that down into tasks. Once you get your operational framework built, review the regulations and add the related policies where they fit. That way you actually validate that your operations are compliant and create a structure where your employees can easily find what they need to know. Its always a good idea to start with how your business actually “works” and understand that first. That’s the foundation.

If you follow this approach you’ll automatically avoid redundancies AND if you’re like many of our customers, you’ll be able to improve some of your processes and compliance policies  as you go along. (Zavanta software provides a variety of aids to creating effective, user-friendly policies and procedures. ) To get even more value for your corporate training programs as well, create this framework with a training goal in mind—Can we train from this document? Would a new person “GET IT” and be able to comply with the regulations in day-to-day situations?”

Mixing policy and procedure information altogether is another related problem we see all the time. For help with that one see our previous post: Avoiding Common Pitfalls: Don’t Mix Up Policies and Procedures.

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