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The Voice of Policy

April 13, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 152

Wise leaders are always looking for an edge for efficiency. They take advantage of what others have done. For example, you copy another credit union's policies or you obtain a sample from a friend at another 501-C-3. Alternatively, you buy a 'model' published by a third part. Those are the subject of this article.

In the eighth century BC, Herod said, "It is best to do things systematically, since we are only human, and disorder is our worst enemy." Providing order is perhaps the best reason for taking on the task of developing policies - guidelines that help people do better work.

Policies generally derive from our experiences. We want to either repeat or prevent those experiences. However, in a lifetime, it is doubtful that any leader will experience everything that a particular policy could cover. That is where third parties come in. Consultants and other third parties work with many diverse clients whose real-life experiences enable them to build content-rich model policies.

What I am addressing are the styles or formats that some third parties use in their models. The models I have seen are generally well constructed and valuable. See if you can get what I mean about style or approach.

In a model investment policy I received recently, the model text often referred to the organization, in this case a credit union, as is it was another entity. For example, "The blank Credit Union will reexamine these polices every year..." That is a commonly constructed statement found throughout many policies in place in organizations, and in third-party model policy documents.

You say you have seen that too but wonder what I am going on about? Well, it is this. A policy is a guideline developed by the leaders of an organization for the use of its inside people. Therefore, its voice should be "first person."

For example, a board issues a policy expressing its desires and authorizing the executive to act. The executive is that Board's primary audience. (There are board process policies that the board writes for doing its own things systematically and orderly, where the primary reader is a board member.) Board polices need to be read as if hearing it spoken by a chorus of the directors, in unison.

The more appropriate way of saying the above example is this, "The executive [or CEO, or ED, or Investment Committee] will reexamine these polices every year..." That is a more direct statement from the Board to whomever they are directing through the policy.

Third parties have another style in common. They seem to be the outside telling us, instructing us on what the policy should say. I often see a policy area begin with something like this, "It shall be the policy of blank Nonprofit that..." Well, I know I'm being a little fussy here, but when will it be a policy? When I read that kind of statement, what I hear is, "It will someday be our policy to...," Alternately, it is more like a report where the consultant is saying, "Your policy should be..." Neither of those perspectives make sense to me when I am reading an official statement that is supposed to guide my actions today.

Remember, I admit I am being fussy. You may simply take the position that we can all interpret the statement to be the policy, and not a future intent for one. However, if policies are supposed to make our work better, we should not have to make all those avoidable translations and give us time to interpret the important stuff.

Here is another area about which I'm fussy. In your own policy document, the one you adopt for use by your own people and which you will read most often within the walls of your own offices, why would you repeatedly use the name of your own organization? Third party policy providers are in the habit of providing blanks for you to fill in the name of your organization. Perhaps the authors intend for you to feel you are customizing the model by adding your name everywhere. What is more important is customizing the sentences and paragraphs to focus the idea, the intent of the content, to say what you want them to mean.

For example, "The blank Credit Union will invest only in those things authorized by law and regulation, and limited further by these policies." In this statement, it's as if the credit union is talking to itself. Would your elected board say, "The credit union, which we were elected to direct, will do this thing..." To me, both examples sound out-of-body.

Therefore, a final policy should sound more first-person like this excerpt from my model manual for credit unions: "Keep the Board informed of ALM decisions, the basis for them, and expected long-term results."

You see, it is not the board or the credit union that will act, but the board's delegate who will act; the board is directing the delegate.

All I'm saying is, while I am grateful to have model polices to work from, and do as often as I can, I want to work with phrasing that sounds like something written by an insider. Therefore, I hope that if you think about this as I do, you may clip and mail this article to the people who provided you with a model that contain styles that I have outlined here. In addition, I hope they will take it in the spirit that you and I both intended - helpful.

Use third party models to greatest advantage by recognizing they will address more topics than your experience tells you to. The authors have gone to great effort to make your policy-drafting job much easier. First, have someone change all the references to your organization's name to "We" or the title of the position or committee the board directs with that statement. Generally, change the voice to first person. Then get on with the important work - customizing the meaning.

Consultant, Facilitator, Educator, Coach: Management consultant helping to clarify roles at the top of organizations, and helping them seek farther horizons in their planning.

Source: EzineArticles
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