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Policies: What Works and What Needs to Change?

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Drafting a policy is just the beginning of the process of enacting that policy within your business. After creation, there’s another equally important step where you can’t afford to get lost. It’s a policy review process. Whether it’s an existing policy that needs updating or a policy awaiting approval, creating a strong review process can help your organization stay current, compliant, and competitive.

Understanding best practices for a successful review process can be overwhelming. Fortunately, with a little thought and planning up front, there are ways to streamline and automate the policy review process.

What is the policy review process?

The process of reviewing policies for clarity and compliance doesn’t always happen at set times in larger policy management frameworks. Policy reviews can occur prior to initial policy approval, but often should be performed periodically after issuance to ensure all information is accurate, applicable, and up-to-date. This article focuses primarily on the former, but these practices can also be used when evaluating existing policies.

What are the essentials for a good review process? A useful and productive policy review process invites all relevant company stakeholders. Depending on the nature of the policy in question, this could include anyone from the legal team to operations to accounting. Seeking this cooperation helps eradicate problems that might otherwise arise in implementing policies without consulting stakeholders. Pushing through documents that haven’t been thoroughly vetted can cause you problems down the road, including potential legal issues.

Policy review should be considered both an additive and a reducing process. On the one hand, you can add more information, define certain terms, or create visual aids to help explain concepts better. On the other hand, policy reviews should also act like filters. What works in the policy draft? Figure it out, then remove the ones that don’t. To reach the level of specificity and clarity that works for your organization, you should focus on removing ineffective policy language and refining concepts. The ultimate goal is to end with a policy that has an overall positive impact on the company.

Let’s talk organization

Mandating a “good” policy review process is easier said than done, and the organization is key to the process. Note that although the ultimate goal of the review process is approval, the review itself must be an active process. At each stage, stakeholders should read the policy carefully and provide thoughtful feedback. By dividing the review process into stages, you can better organize and manage the feedback you receive. Things will definitely go unnoticed if you let the review go free.

The policy review process doesn’t happen in isolation. All groups affected by policy should have the opportunity to voice their opinions. This includes those to whom the policy is directly applied, those who have some role in enforcing the policy, and those who monitor the policy. They are all relevant stakeholders and should be included as reviewers. At least one stage of this process should include subject matter experts. Also, in general, have someone on your legal team review any proposed policy or any updates made to existing policies to make sure they are not in violation of any laws or regulations you may have overlooked. is always best practice.

Ultimately, the review and approval process should be at a level that corresponds to the applicability of the policy under review. If the policy affects the entire organization, it should be endorsed at a higher level by individuals or groups with both an organizational perspective and appropriate knowledge of the subject matter. If the policy only affects certain departments, it may not require high-level approval. Your policy management team should work together to plan a review and approval workflow for each type of policy you create.

Things to watch out for

Determining who will be involved at each stage of the process can introduce other roadblocks in the policy review process. By their very nature, a thorough review can lead to various issues. Ultimately, reviewers should actively look for things that cause them to ask questions such as:

  • Policy implementation
  • Policy surface elements overlooked or overlooked by original drafters
  • Potential unintended consequences
  • Obscure language
  • Other reviewers essential to the process you may not have considered
  • Regulatory or legal issues in a particular jurisdiction

Make sure the reviewers are really evaluating the document itself, not just the concepts it contains. That’s the only way to spot superficial problems like confusing wording, incorrect grammar, and weird formatting. When reviewing the content itself, reviewers should be aware of the following:

Consistency with internal and external regulations: Do the policies align with the company’s core values? Do they contradict existing procedures and policies? Promote legal compliance?

Relevance: Is this policy necessary for my organization? How often is it likely to be used?

Implementation: How does your organization enforce this policy? Can it be successfully implemented as written?

Impact: How will members of your company who are directly affected by this policy react? Can this policy be enforced? Could it negatively affect your work?

Understand feedback

After identifying and performing the necessary steps of the policy review process, the next stage is to process the feedback received. It is not always necessary to implement policy changes based on all feedback provided by reviewers. Ultimately, it is up to the policy owner to decide how to handle the feedback. However, remember that the ultimate goal of the policy review process is policy approval. In some cases, we may need to make certain changes for approval from our stakeholders.

It’s also important to remember when considering feedback that the review process isn’t always linear. The cycle of sharing the policy for review, receiving feedback, and making changes based on that feedback may repeat as many times as necessary.

Create an optimal policy review process

The ideal policy review process for your organization fosters a sense of ownership over the policies under review, facilitates eventual implementation, and delivers benefits. A thorough documented review makes approval and implementation much easier. After all, after a policy has been thoroughly reviewed and scrutinized by relevant experts, everyone is much more likely to be confident in its content.

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