Procedures

All organizations have procedures and it’s important to understand there are reasons for the procedures (if there aren’t reasons, then the procedures should be changed or removed).

Since you know there are procedures, and there are reasons for the procedures, it’s important to follow these procedures. This might seem like a logical thing but the reality is, people deviate from procedures more than they should.

What is the problem with doing it a different way? Once you have done it a different way, you have created a precedent that will allow it to be done this way again and again.

Why is this such a big deal? Imagine you have an employee who asks for an advance on their salary. If your policy is that you don’t give advances on salaries, that is an easy way to simply say no. However, if you have given an advance on a salary in the past, it’s much more difficult to say no when the reality is, you have done so in the past and can do so in the future.

Another example would be with a child. If their bed time is 9 PM and one evening you let them stay up till 10 PM, it’s much more difficult to tell them they can’t do that again. While it’s nice to be flexible, it’s important for this flexibility to be built into the procedures. The way to build this into the procedures is to have a 9 PM bedtime on school nights and 10 PM when there is no school the next day. This allows for more flexibility while staying within the rules.

The other problem with procedures is they get created or changed for too many situations. Using soccer as an example, I know of many coaches who have a no practice/no play policy. This simply means if the player misses the team practice, the player can’t play in the next game. While some would say this is a fair rule, it’s important to think of the possible reasons for missing practice. Should a player who misses practice due to a death in the family be treated the same as the player who missed practice due to their decision to go to a movie? At least in my mind, the answer is no. I coached a team where the parents wanted a no practice/no play policy. We would have run into a problem because one of the players ended up missing some practices because he was picked to play on the US national team shortly before we were playing in the US national championships. Should he have been “punished” for not practicing with his club team while he was playing for the national team? To me, that was a simple answer of no. However, if we had the rule of no practice/no play, we would have had a problem.

It’s best to develop the procedures in a way that is strictly structured yet still flexible when needed. To use the salary advance as an example, the policy might be there are no advances allowed without approval from the board of directors. By writing the policy this way, it let’s the employees know advances are not going to be given unless there is an extenuating circumstance that would be important enough to present to the board of directors. Since most people would not be willing to take it to that level, it makes it very easy for the HR people to say no. If there is a true emergency, they could present it to the board to make a final decision.

Make sure your organization has procedures, there is a reason for them and they are followed. Too many organizations have policies and procedures “somewhere” but tend to “play it by ear” as opposed to following them. Inevitably, this ends up causing problems in the long run.

Have a great day!

Lawrence

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