The people drawing a wage from you either know what to do when or they don’t. Those who have been in your employ for a while and are inconsistent in how they work their assigned processes either don’t know the policies, procedures, and standards you have for their assigned work, or you don’t have any documented policies, procedures, and standards. Either way, you lose money when everyday work is not done consistently and efficiently.
A process is a series of actions or steps taken to achieve a particular end. They are shaped by the policies, procedures, and standards put in place to ensure the process is performed as designed.
Policies are guiding principles intended to influence decisions and actions. They help people recognize why something needs to be done and inform them on what is not to be done. Policy statements help focus attention and resources through rules followed by specific responsibilities. As a result, policy statements have the following characteristics:
- Are general for widespread application.
- Identify company rules, why they exist, when the rule applies, how it is enforced, and the consequences of violating it.
- Less subject to change.
- They are typically described in simple sentences and paragraphs.
- The purpose is to reduce operational issues.
Procedures are a specific way of doing things. They tell you how it is to be done with standards, telling you what is to be done and how you know it was done correctly.
The procedures associated with each process and policy are the instructions describing how to complete a task or do a job. Procedures coupled with policies by process bring uniformity to vital business operations to improve operating efficiencies and reduce the risk of an unwanted event. Effective procedures have the following characteristics:
- Are narrow in application to identify specific actions to be taken
- Explain when to take action, what alternative actions exist, specific warnings, and cautions.
- Prone to change as processes improve.
- They are typically written in outline form by major steps.
- It exists to describe core process steps to be performed.
Policies can be company-wide, department-specific, or process-focused. Procedures detail how to perform specific business functions. Standards provide the measures, metrics, and controls that confirm whether business areas are compliant with defined policies and procedures. Policies are a statement of intent, while standards function as rules to achieve that intent.
Together, policies and procedures provide a roadmap for day-to-day operations. They ensure compliance with laws, regulations, and company policies. They give guidance for decision-making and streamline internal processes.
Standards exist to help those accountable for specific processes know if they contribute to business results or not.