P&P Policies and Procedures Consulting
P&P Policies and Procedures Consulting

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The Policies & Procedures Authority – The newsletter about the art of transforming workplace learning and performance through Policies & Procedures Communication

Are You Tempted to Use a Template to Expedite Policy & Procedure Development?

– Raymond E. Urgo

Question

Are you tempted to use a “template” to expedite the development and publication of policies and procedures in your organization? If your answer is “yes,” use caution!

Background

With the growing popularity of word processing in the 1980s, organizations “pushed” to expedite the development of policies and procedures (P&P) in new and decentralized ways. References to the terms “boilerplate” and “canned procedures” were common. As desktop publishing and online help authoring tools took rise in the 1990s, the terms “formatting templates” and “style sheets” became popular. Today, “template” has become the popular umbrella term, although there are different types of templates—content format, mechanical format, and pre-written P&P. There is a great deal of misunderstanding about the purpose and limitations of using templates to develop P&P content because of the different “template” types.

Definition: Content format

Content format templates provide the prescribed, sequential layout of generic sections (such as purpose, scope, responsibilities, definitions, policy, procedure) of a P&P document, so the writer can “fill in the blanks” with the information.

Caution: While this type of template prescribes what to include, it does not guide developers about how to identify, analyze, and write content to meet the performance needs of users and the organization.

Definition: Mechanical format

Mechanical format and style templates provide macros for creating a pre-set layout for pages or screens and for applying pre-set fonts and type sizes for headings, text, tables, and more.

Caution: While this type of template helps achieve consistency in the “look” of page/screen layout and content, it does not guide in first analyzing and organizing content and then in applying appropriate styles to the type of content for effective presentation purposes.

Definition: Prewritten P&P

Pre-written P&P templates (sometimes called “packaged” or “canned” procedures) provide generic content about a P&P-related subject for adaptation to the respective needs of an organization or user.

Caution: While pre-written P&P templates provide a starting point and model for content coverage, they do not provide a guide for analyzing, writing, or customizing content effectively or for identifying content that is not applicable or that may be missing.

Reasons for temptations towards templates

Here are four reasons why people are tempted toward templates for P&P development:

  • They are concerned only that P&P content is in existence, not with the usefulness or usability of the content.
  • They think templates are the solution because a fast approach is the best.
  • They may not know of alternatives for developing content nor where to get assistance.
  • They think templates teach or guide people to develop and present content effectively; they do not realize that templates are tools that aid in the application of the principles of effective P&P communication.

Conclusion

When you hear people mention the term “template” for P&P, be sure you know what type of template they are referring to. Do not be tempted to think that templates are the solution to effective P&P content. Remember, it is the application of the principles of analysis and writing that makes the difference for users—not the template.

For advice about your policies and procedures development needs, as well as the types and uses of templates for policies and procedures, contact Urgo & Associates.