Policy and Procedure Development

By Cindy Pao, President

One unexpected turn my career path took was into the world of policy and procedure development. I thought I would share with you some things I’ve been learning, and how this new responsibility is helping me become a stronger person.

A large part of my job duties now includes the position of Policy & Procedure Coordinator (PPC). In this position, and depending on the originating department, I perform most of the following tasks:

  • research
  • template development
  • policy or procedure development (writing)
  • editing
  • facilitating reviews and merging review comments
  • incorporating (or not) review comments
  • facilitating approval
  • finalizing and releasing approved documents

Research

I did research about what policy and procedure documents include. While this kind of research is pretty easy to do, you still need to defend yourself. Make sure you can cite some sources and tell your work groups the reasons why their policy or procedure needs to include that “Applicability” section.

Now I do research for materials to include in the policies and procedures I write. It’s a whole new world since I was in college! No more do you have to go to the library and page through the periodical index or card catalog. Now, go out to your favorite search engine and type away. Of particular value for me is being able to find information from government websites. Our health, safety & environmental policies and procedures rely heavily on the definitions and requirements specified on the OSHA and FMCSA pages.

Templates

I updated our templates accordingly. I created new ones. I educated policy and procedure authors how to correctly use the templates in Word.

Writing

Most of us, as technical communicators, write “procedures,” in the form of task topics or step-by-step sections in user guides. I thought I could transition to this type of writing easily, but it wasn’t thateasy.

What I’ve been trying to bring to the table, instead, are the principles I learned as a technical communicator. I’m especially pleased that folks around me are starting to catch on, too!

For example, in a recent HR employee handbook review meeting, the team decided that it’s time to cut some fat. The person who originally wrote the handbook believed in trying to address every possible solution. No more. Chatty language is a thing of the past. Sections common to multiple policies in the handbook have been consolidated in the introduction to the handbook. Policy statements have been edited to use active voice. (Would that I could have done that here!)

Editing

I edit all of the policies and procedures that get submitted. In addition to a copy edit, I apply (or re-apply) the templates, update the boilerplate language, make sure that the policy statement is really a policy, and edit the content of the document. In doing so, I get in to the reason for a procedure and, more importantly, a policy.

The Rest of the Process

It’s also my job to send the policy or procedure out for review, collect and merge all of the review comments, incorporate (or not) the review comments, and get the policy or procedure approved by the appropriate levels of authority.

These final steps help ensure that we release a professional document that meets these criteria

  • It’s easy for everyone to understand.
  • It’s been reviewed by the departments that need to implement it.
  • It’s communicated to the applicable departments and employees.
  • It’s stored in our document-control system and published in a non-editable format.

Career Development

This year, I’ve been given a new challenge: to learn to push back. I worked on a policy that said, basically, we will obey the law. The reason this policy was rejected: we already have a policy document in place that says we will obey the law. This new policy would have been a situation where we wanted to address a specific situation, when it really wasn’t necessary.

So my challenges, now, are to become better familiar with my subject matter and then learn how to stand up to the vice presidents who submit policies and procedures. I see this as an important step in my career development. You might not believe it, but I can meek and timid sometimes, especially when I’m not an expert.

Challenge

What kind of career challenges are you encountering in 2014? How will you overcome and excel? I challenge you to make 2014 another year where you step out of your comfort zone and further both yourself and this career we call technical communication!

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And, if you’re just better interacting one-on-one, send me an email (president@stc-houston.orgor any of the chapter email addresses listed on the Leaders & Committees page (http://www.stc-houston.org/leadersandcommittees/).

Comments

  1. TIM KORNEGAY says:

    Thank you so much for this article! I have a certificate in Technical Communications where I had to complete a capstone project. My project was policies and procedures for an education program at a church. How did you get a position in writing policies and procedures?

    • I didn’t deliberately come into this position. I was assigned to handle all of the P&P after I had worked here for six months or a year. At that time, I was the only technical communicator at the company, and I guess my background qualified me for the position.

      If you are a technical communicator, you can definitely take on this role. Your knowledge and use of technical communication principals helps you with audience analysis and including the right information for that audience.

      Thank you for your comment, Tim!
      Cindy