What is a good policy?

A good policy is one that is:

  • easily understood and written in plain, jargon-free text so anyone can understand it, even if it is a complex area of work
  • has a definite purpose for why it exists
  • linked to and/or supports your vision for your sport
  • flexible and can adapt to change as circumstances change
  • suited to the culture of the organisation
  • developed through the involvement of various interested parties
  • communicated to all relevant people (including employees, members and in some circumstances the wider general public)
  • underpinned by easy to follow procedures and/or guidelines.

How to create a good policy

To create a good policy (rule) you need to:

  • understand why the policy needs to exist, for example for good general governance, legal and/or ethical reasons or to deal with specific problems that have arisen due to the lack of a policy and procedure
  • decide whether this is an area where the board should be shaping policy or if the shaping needs to be done by other more suitable persons with direct knowledge of the area concerned, this can improve “ownership”
  • arrange for a sub-group, employee or individual director to produce a draft policy for discussion
  • set a structured standard outline format for all your policies – this can streamline the development and give confidence to end users
  • consider when the policy will be needed and how people can access it, as well as when they might need to reference it (why they need it)
  • reduce the risk of non-compliance by gathering all the necessary information before starting (this applies to the policy and the procedures/guidelines)
  • discuss (including consultation with others as applicable, particularly those impacted by the policy) and agree the final version as determined by Board delegation or otherwise
  • cross reference or link to any other policies as required
  • ensure a review timescale is set (usually every two years) within the general governance process of the organisation, in the case of a Board policy, ensure a date for review is set in the Board calendar.

Once the policy is agreed, the Procedures and/or Guidelines should be developed to enable the policy to be adhered to in the required manner. Take care not to confuse policy with procedure, they are different – policy sets a specific rule, procedure sets the process to follow with regard to the rule, and guidelines may only be general principles and not as specific as procedures.

When developing procedures and/or guidelines:

  • clearly differentiate between policy (as above) and procedure/guidelines, although all information may be held within the same document
  • keep in mind that you might be an expert in the area that you are writing but users of the procedure might not be, set out clear steps
  • use appropriate text, for example, “shall” or “must” sets a requirement whereas “should” or “may” allows variation
  • avoid using text that might change, so do not use a person’s name, use the position
  • don’t use ten words when four would do – this improves the likelihood that the document will be read by more people
  • provide contact details for any questions that may arise or circumstances that sit outside the procedure
  • set a procedure review date and process in line with the policy requirement.

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