Having too many policies can burden your organization, but having too few exposes it to unnecessary risk. That means we need to assess which policies we prioritize first in our policy management process. As a rule of thumb, policies are necessary when they define organizational values or mandates, address regulatory obligations, or manage potential risk or liability.
If the past two years of working and strategizing in the midst of a pandemic has taught us anything, it's that organizations need to prioritize crafting thorough and transparent policies, and those policies need to be adaptable to keep up with ever-changing local mandates.
Consider the following questions as you prioritize your policy development efforts. Use this list to select the order in which you tackle policy creation or updates, or to identify policies that can be consolidated or eliminated altogether.
20 Questions to Prioritizing Policy Development
- Does the document communicate executive direction such as vision, mission, values, or objectives?
- How critical is the document to achieving your vision, mission, values and goals?
- How integral is the policy to the success, support and enablement of daily operations?
- How urgent is the need for written directions on this particular subject?
- How unclear or complex is this issue to the average employee?
- How often will employees refer to the document?
- Is the policy integral to establishing or shaping your culture?
- How many employees are affected by the policy?
- What are the potential consequences of not having the policy or of its being outdated?
- Is this policy critical to workplace health or safety?
Read: Hospitals Have No Room for Error on Policy & Procedure Communications During Fast-Moving Public Health Crises
- Could the lack of this policy result in harm to people?
- Could the lack of this policy halt or slow operations?
- Is the policy required or recommended by local, state or federal law?
- Have recent events necessitated changes to or the creation of a policy?
- Is the policy required for regulatory compliance?
- Is the policy required for a certification audit?
- How probable or likely is an incident or violation of this nature to occur?
- How serious would the ramifications be if an incident arose and no policy existed or a policy was outdated?
- Would the policy resolve existing challenges?
- Might the lack of the policy contribute to reputational risk or misrepresentation by an employee?
Document, Document, Document
Policy development is part of your organization’s overarching policy management process. This process includes managing your organization’s policies or procedures throughout all stages of the policy life cycle, such as drafting, editing, approving, updating, distributing, gaining employee attestation, and maintaining an auditable database of records. So this process should be documented, and documented well.