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When Standing Behind Your Policies No Longer Add Value to Your Business

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When Standing Behind Your Policies No Longer Add Value to Your Business

Everyone knows Small Businesses need to have policies as part of their systems and operations. Well, that’s what we’re told but is it really true? I know I’m being controversial but for good reason.

Businesses/organisations are ‘told’ you MUST have policies and procedures for compliance, audit, consistency, sustainability, productivity, profitability, etc. And whilst I totally agree that businesses need procedures, I have a different opinion on policies.

Let’s first look at what a policy is. A policy outlines your intentions i.e. what you will do (or think you’ll do) in certain circumstances, situations and environments. For example, a Complaints Policy outlines what you will do in the instance of a complaint. But if you’ve never had a complaint before, do you really know what you’ll do when its REAL and not just a hypothetical?

A policy is about the possible – the WILL. A procedure is about the WHAT and the HOW.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in what you think you will do (which also implies you may or may not); I’m only interested in what you will actually do, how, when, by whom, etc.

So if you’re writing a policy, what’s the purpose of it?

  1. Clearly and succinctly outline your intent
  2. Easily understood by anyone who reads it
  3. Able to be followed
  4. Congruent with your brand
  5. Compliance (possibly)

Why is it then, when I review many policies as part of streamlining business systems, I find:

  • They’re written in techno, jargon or bureaucratic language that no-one understands.
  • It takes half a page at least to get to the real information because the template has meaningless headings like: scope, purpose, responsibility, etc. Please get to the point – what do I really need to know?
  • When I read them, I find they can be in conflict with the brand and how the business operates.

Example 1: Dance Moms

I have seen bits of the show ‘Dance Moms’ (I wanted to see what all the yelling was about). So I Googled the Dance School and stumbled upon their policies. Two of the many rules in this studio are:

“1. Your children are a reflection of you. Good manners and proper etiquette are always expected. 2. We will treat your children with courtesy and respect.”

And yet, respect is definitely not demonstrated by anyone on this show, and certainly not from the dance coach, who at one stage, chose not to call a child by their name and referred to them as ‘blondie’ and ‘you there’ as a form of punishment. Bully rather than respect would be a more accurate word.

So the purpose of these policies are….?

Example 2: Registered Training Organisations (RTOs)

I work with many RTOs who must comply with Compliance Standards as set by the Regulators. The Standards don’t state you have to have policies but most RTOs have all these policies, linked to the compliance requirements, because they think they have to.  Its open to interpretation. You could actually have 1 Policy stating, our RTO agrees to comply with the requirements of the National Standards for RTOs and then have the procedures required to run a training business.

So the purpose of having lots of policies that aren’t streamlined or being read or followed is….?

My point is this: If you have written policies in your business, please ensure they serve a purpose and are able to be understood and followed. Don’t have meaningless policies that just tick a regulatory or idealistic requirement and nothing else – they simply take up space on your IT system and waste everyone’s time.

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