Through a series of workshops, games and discussions the local Beaver and Cub Scouts developed an acceptable behaviour policy. And when written up it was the definition of a policy – a course of action adopted or proposed by a group, organisation or individual.
After a while, many of the Beavers and Cubs moved up or on and the group membership changed. The policy became less effective. This could be partly down to it becoming stale or forgotten, but the group was not the same group that adopted.
In contrast, at work most policies are usually drafted by a small group of specialists or an individual in isolation rather than being developed by all staff. The development and approval process often involves a lot of debates about wording, such as whether to use citizen, resident or customer. As most modern organisations do not have a strong command and control culture, the most that the policy can usually achieve is ticking a box for internal audit or a 3rd party regulator. Rarely it has a real impact on staff, who like the Beavers and Cubs probably, do not seem to worry about the choice of words and phrases.
Instead of spending a lot of time crafting just the right phrase, more effort should be spent trying to involve staff in developing the policy. Of course, in a large organisation it is not easy to involve everyone, but just getting senior management to ‘approve’ a document and publish it on the intranet does not really mean it is ‘adopted’ by the organisation. Equal, if not more, time and effort should be spent engaging and working with staff before a policy is written than promoting it once it has been written.