When a professional organization conducted an informal survey to find out how P&P practitioners define policies and procedures (P&P), more than 90 percent of practitioners define two terms—“policy” and “procedure”—and the relationship of one to the other. While the definitions provided for each were similar, the survey indicates the limited view that most P&P practitioners have about the policies and procedures specialty.
Our experience and research indicate that most people, including P&P practitioners, define P&P on a micro level, primarily because they have not considered other perspectives. Here are three perspectives about policies and procedures by which you can think, speak, and act in today’s workplace.
Micro perspective – policies OR procedures
At the micro perspective level, a policy refers to an organization’s position or stance about what should or should not be done as it relates to a practice; a procedure refers to sequential steps that enable someone to accomplish something, including a policy. For example, a university may have a tuition refund policy to state the terms about when a student is entitled to a refund. The university may also have an accompanying procedure(s) with steps about how to apply for and issue a refund, when applicable.
The micro perspective is simple to understand and is suited for the layperson or novice who needs some grounding in P&P communication. While the definitions for “policy” and “procedure” are correct and useful, they are neither sufficient nor comprehensive for the amount of complexity of P&P in today’s organizations.
Macro perspective: policies AND procedures
Today’s organizational practices include more types of information than only “policies” and “procedures”. For example, aligned with policies are standards, rules, guidelines, regulations, and codes; and aligned with procedures are processes, instructions, and directions.
In defining policies and procedures from the macro perspective, we consider the term as an umbrella name to describe various related types of information.
Here is our definition from a macro perspective:
Policies and procedures (P&P) refers to the principles and methods, whether formalized, authorized, or documented, that enable people affiliated with an organization to perform in a predictable, repeatable, and consistent way.
Based upon this definition, P&P can exist even though it may not be documented. What also makes P&P different from other types of organizational information is that it must relate to how people perform in a predictable, repeatable, and consistent manner.
Mega perspective - body of knowledge
Because many organizations need to formalize, authorize, and document their P&P as a knowledge resource, the term “policies and procedures” must address the need to develop and use P&P content. To meet this need, the mega perspective adds the word “communication” to the term, thereby creating the context for a P&P body of knowledge or discipline. Here is our definition of the P&P communication specialty from a mega perspective.
Policies and procedures (P&P) communication refers to the body of knowledge about how information is designed, conveyed, and used as it relates to the principles and methods that enable people affiliated with an organization to perform.
In today’s workplace, the next time you refer to policies and procedures (P&P), it is important to know the context or perspective from which you are speaking—micro (policies or procedures), macro (policies and procedures), or mega (policies and procedures communication).
Contact Urgo & Associates today to explore how policies and procedures communication can transform your workplace learning and performance needs.