Organizational Structure, Governance, Insurance, 1

Organizational Structure, Governance and Insurance

Part I:  Policies and Procedures


The article below is excerpted from the audio transcript of a Policy Series Webinar presented by Jessica Brodey, attorney and consultant for the Pass It on Center, on March 24, 2008. This is the first of three parts.



Today we're going to discuss organizational structure, governance, and insurance. When we're talking about policies and procedures, these are very high-level things that you'll be developing. It is not necessarily the nitty-gritty that we'll get to later on as we move on to other topics.


The Importance of Policies and Procedures


One of the first questions that comes to everyone's mind is, why do we care about policies and procedures? We're doing just fine without them. We're able to go step by step, and we have our business, and it's working just fine. So what about policies and procedures?  Well, one reason policies and procedures are important is that they are a means to mitigate your liability.


If you have a set of actions that are approved that you have determined are the safe way to proceed, and you do things in accordance with your policies and procedures, this does give you some level of care and protection. If something goes wrong, if there's a lawsuit later, you can say, "We did everything possible. We took all of these steps," et cetera. By the same token, if you have written policies and procedures and you're known to consistently diverge from them, that can be used against you because you did something not in accordance with your policies and procedures.


Another thing that's important about policies and procedures is that they provide a structure to insure practices are performed appropriately. Think of this as your best practice guide. They are meant to structure your practices so that things are being done in the best possible way. When you don't take the time to sit down and write out the steps and write out the processes that you would like to see happen, people have a tendency to operate off the cuff.


And when you operate off the cuff, it can be inefficient. It can be expensive. It can also be just flat-out wrong. Then the ability to duplicate the proper procedure over and over again becomes difficult. Again, it's a safeguard to avoid mistakes. If you're operating off the cuff, you're more likely to make a big mistake, to forget something, to lose a paper, or to process something improperly.


Policies and procedures can also be your guidelines for accountability. If you have employees that are difficult and not doing their job, your policies and procedures are a standard against which you can measure them and say, "I'm sorry. You're falling short here. You need to do these three things. And if you don't, we're going to have to terminate you." It's also a tool that you can use that to give merit assessments and evaluations for employees. “You did all of these things and, in fact, you went above and beyond the call. Kudos to you.”


Finally it does help with continuity. Some of you have turnover, or you just have people that retire, or you have one or two people that know the ins and outs of how things work. If that person gets sick, can't make it in, disappears or just decides to move on to another job, the transition from that person to another person is difficult if all of the policies and procedures and basic ways things are being done aren't written down somewhere.


Policies Are Standards of Practice


We keep throwing around these terms "policies" and "procedures." And what do we mean by them? When we talk about policies, we really mean high-level guidelines. It is a plan of action to guide decisions. So it's not your specific step-by-step procedure, but it's really your metric for how things should be done. It sets out your ground rules for effective interactions. It covers these high-risk areas. Policies are accepted, well-defined norms and standards of practice. Norms and standards articulate what is done, who is served, and what resources are needed.


Your policies and procedures might talk about how you go about getting assistive technology to reutilize and the fact that it should be sanitized. But your procedures are the specifics about how to do the sanitization step by step.


Procedures Specify Step-by-Step Operations


Procedures delineate the processes and activities necessary to implement policies. They describe the day-to-day operations in step-by-step detail. A procedure may specify which brand of cleaner to use. It may specify what store to buy from because you have a contract there. Your procedures are where you specify whether to use FedEx or UPS.


Procedures are usually based on professional guidelines when they are available. So if you find professional guidelines for how to sanitize something, for example, you base your guidelines on that. But the sanitization guidelines might just say, "Use in a 2 percent solution of bleach," and your guidelines might say, "We use brand X, 2 percent solution of bleach for sanitizing." Your procedures provide your step-by-step guidance for your basic organizational activities such as client intake, sanitization, delivery of products, and hiring of employees. All of those things could be exact procedures.


We often get questions such as, ‘How do we get policies and procedures?’ Most policies and procedures should be formal, written documents that can be used as a reference. Some things we will be reviewing are foundation steps and decisions that you must do first before you can decide what your policies and procedures should cover. For example, we're going to talk about legal status. It's one of our first categories. And within legal status, there is less about developing policies and procedures than about filing appropriate documents and developing certain standards so that you can have that perspective as you're moving into policies and procedures. But, we promised was to give you a little bit more information about how you actually write policies and procedures.


Organize the Policies and Procedures


The first thing you should know is that they should be organized. There should be a table of contents. They should be numbered. Like policies should be grouped together. So as we move through these next series of Webinars, we're going to give you groupings, headings of different categories and subsets. And this is something that you could use to come up with your groupings for your file of policies and procedures.


I strongly encourage people to use an outline format when creating policies and procedures. That way you have a numbering system. You number each new policy differently. Within each policy, each major paragraph has a section number as well. And that way you can refer to policy No. 4321, paragraph 2A. People know where you're talking about. It's easy to identify. It's easy to point out. All of these policies should be composed in such away that you could easily put them in a notebook or a binder or have them bound. You can distribute them to new employees. Some people put them on a Web site. You can also use the Internet.


You can look for companies in your state to help you out. You can look for similar corporate structures and similar services and activities and see if they've posted their policies and procedures online and use those as a basis for developing your own.


I'm going to use an Internet link to show you a set of policies and procedures online from a college that is local to where I live. And the reason I picked this particular set of guidelines is, if you look at the top, they have different chapters. They have a nice table of contents. And it's all grouped together to indicate what is in each section.


The first section is all about the board of trustees and bylaws. The second section is about the organization. The third section is about personnel. The fourth is about student affairs. The next section is about the educational program. It is divided very nicely and very clearly. When you go down to Chapter 1, it has two different policies. And it has the bylaws, and it has a particular number. Chapter 2 has Organization, and it has different numbers for each policy. If you scroll down to Chapter 3, Personnel, you'll see a whole lot of different policies, and each one is numbered sequentially. It starts with a 3 because it's in Chapter 3, and then it's 1002, 1003, 1004.


This is the organizational technique that was chosen for these series of policies. You can choose your own numbering system, but this is a very good example of the way a numbering system can work. If you click on "Hate violence activity," you can see the policy number at the top. It tells you what chapter it is in, and what the subject of this policy is. And each little section has a Roman numeral on the side. Some of the other policies and procedures are far more detailed, and the follow an outline format with a subsection capital "A" and then a little number 1 and then a little letter "a." And for each little subarea that you have, that's how you number it. But this is a very good numbered, organized example of a policy manual and how policies should look.


The reason I encourage you to use the Internet is because you can find other policies and procedures, particularly when they're within your state. You may say, "Oh, that's a good policy to have," and, "This has been vetted," and, "We should look at some of those things." You can borrow language from those other policies and procedures. There are numerous sample human resources policies and procedures on the Internet that you can look to as guidelines.


Start with One Subject or Category


The next thing that I suggest is that, as you decide what to start working on for policies, pick a subject area. Decide if you want to start with personnel or if you want to start with operations or if you want to start with your facilities. For policies, one good way to start is to start by writing how things should work. What are the different components involved in your personnel? What are the different components involved in operations management?


Along the way in our Webinar series, we will give you suggested categories that you can use. For each of these categories, you should start talking about goals that should be included.


Joy asked, "What mix of people should be involved in developing your policies?" And that's a great question. Sometimes it's done at the very top by the executive director or the main person in charge. It's just one person.


However, that's not always the best, particularly in a small organization. You may want to involve everyone who is doing different things, particularly at the procedure level. You could include all department managers, or you may want a particular manager for a particular set of operations. Or, you have one person that is in charge of all intake of clients or somebody else who's in charge of all intake of equipment, or it may be the same person who does both of those. That person would be a key person to bring into the room. If you have outside counsel or legal assistance, it's a good idea always to involve them. You may have some people who are good with management or human resources, or if some of you are placed in other organizations, perhaps you could borrow expertise from someone there. Those are the types of people you should involve in the writing of policies and procedures. But again, you start by writing down how you think things should work and what your goals are before you get down to the nitty-gritty of the policies and procedures.


For procedures, start writing down how things actually do work and how they should work. Give specific steps for carrying out tasks. The Pass It on Center Web site is going to have resources, such as sample formats, for developing policies and procedures. We actually have a person that's been working on some procedures for a lot of the different topics we'll be discussing over the next few months. And you may choose to use the procedures that we provide within your own organization. Again, remember the distinction between policies – the high-level overview of things – and procedures. Your policy may be "We will collect utilized AT and distribute to people with incomes of less than $20,000 per year." For your procedure, that may be, "We fill out this client intake for No. 2345. We have to have them come in person. We have to have them sign a release. They have to go through an evaluation." Those are steps specifying how you serve them.


That's the difference between policies, which set guidelines and your big, broad goals, and procedures, which talk about the implementation of work.


Benefits of Documenting Procedures


Many of you already have ways of doing things. We're trying to encourage you to articulate what those steps are. If you have a form that you use to sign off on getting a piece of AT somewhere, and you know that it has to go through three people and get a signature before you can get that AT out, that's your procedure. And your procedure could be called "Distribution of AT." Step one, get this form. Step two, fill it out. Step three, have these three people sign off on it. You can mention them by title. You can mention them by name if that's appropriate. If it's any three people in the office, that's fine. But you spell that part out. Step four, what do you do with the form after it has been filled out? Turn it back in to so and so. Step five is, file it. Save it for this particular record. Step six is, set up a meeting to distribute the equipment.


Many of you have procedures that are working. And you think, "Well, if we know how to do it, why do we need to write it down?" Because today you know how to do it, but somebody else could come in tomorrow and take over, and they won't know how to do it. It also matters because sometimes you write it out, and you look at this, and you say, "Boy, there are 53 steps just to do this simple thing. Is there an easier way to do it?"


It may help you improve internal efficiency. It may also help you find some shortcomings in your process. "You know, as we wrote it up, we noticed that we never file these forms. Even though we fill them out, they all end up in the garbage." That's a problem with your policies and procedures. So if you write them, you then add a new line about how it should be filed. And you then have a new responsibility for somebody to take charge of that filing.


A previous questioner asked, ‘If an organization had a legal proceeding, and if it had a written procedure but no overarching policy, wouldn't the procedure be as good as a policy?’ Yes. You don't necessarily need both policies and procedures. Sometimes it's appropriate to choose one over the other. Not every area requires a policy. Not every area requires a procedure. Some area requires one but not the other. Sometimes it's good to have both. It's good to have overarching stated goals and then get down to the nitty-gritty of how you want things to work, because it's easier to change the procedures a little bit more frequently. So if the procedure this month is, "We fill out this intake form, and we send out products via Federal Express," and in three months you get a better contract from UPS, you can change your procedure to say, "We now use UPS, not Federal Express."


Often it's a little bit more difficult to change policies because they really govern the whole philosophy of your organization. People sometimes have their procedures taped on the wall on little Post-it notes or, you know, little steps on some secretary's desk about how to go about doing certain things. What we're hoping to do is take it from that level and have you quantify it, write it down in some way that's much more accessible.


See the other excerpts from this Webinar:

Part 2 – Organizational Structure

Part 3 -- Insurance




Please note that by selecting an Internet link you will be directed to an external site, and the Pass It on Center does not control the content of the site.



This work is supported under a five-year cooperative agreement # H235V060016 awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and is administered by the Pass It On Center of the Georgia Department of Labor – Tools for Life.  However, the contents of this publication do not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the Department of Education, or the Georgia Department of Labor, and you should not assume endorsements of this document by the Federal government or the Georgia Department of Labor.



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Other Information

Title: Organizational Structure, Governance, Insurance, 1
Module: Organization
Author: Jessica Brodey
Audience: Administrator
Sub Title: Webinar: Part 1 -- Policies and Procedures
Organization Source: Pass It On Center
Last Reviewed: 11-30--0001 12:00 AM