Policies and procedures tell your employees, partners, vendors, and customers how your system operates. With changing regulations and expectations, a static library is not enough. Policies are dynamic and require a system to manage their creation, documentation, distribution, and management. The following article provides advice on how to check your policy management system’s health.
Objectives of Policy and Procedure Management for Quality Management Systems
As in any other business area, a functional policy and procedure management system for quality management will:
- Establish and communicate organizational goals and objectives
- Define the organization’s governance and accountability structures
- Explicitly define expectations and consequences
- Establish and shape a culture of compliance
- Reduce legal and regulatory risk through the issue and corrective action management
- Establish regulatory compliance and audit readiness
Start Your Policy Management Health Check
The health check below is designed to help determine the strengths and weaknesses of your policy and procedure management system at a high level. The checkup assesses your system’s strengths and weaknesses based on scoring four critical health check components or areas:
- Policy and Procedure Development
- Exception Handling
Scoring your Policy Management System Health
Using the scale below, assign a number to reflect the health of each element of your policy management system:
- 1 = Exceeds Expectations
- 2 = Meets Expectations
- 3 = Needs Improvement
- 4 = Unsatisfactory
Health Check Component 1: Policy and Procedure Development
___ Your company’s policies and procedures are authored in a consistent, established format.
___ Your company’s policies and procedures include the document owner, objective, and scope.
___ All of the company’s policies and procedures can be accessed from a single, searchable repository.
___ All policies and procedures are reviewed for approval by affected stakeholders.
Total Development Score ____ (4 – 16)
Health Check Component 2: Policy and Procedure Maintenance
___ Your company’s policies and procedures are reviewed on a periodic basis for relevancy and timeliness.
___ Policy and Procedure reviews include assessment of the documented effectiveness as well as the number of related exceptions or nonconformances.
___ Previous versions of revised policies/procedures can be retrieved as needed by authorized users for regulatory and compliance audits.
___ A policy/procedure review can be triggered by an audit finding or nonconformance that exposes the document to be in need of improvement.
Total Maintenance Score ____ (4 – 16)
Health Check Component 3: Policy and Procedure Exception Handling
___ Your company has a documented, established process for handling policy exceptions.
___ Anyone in the company can request a policy exception.
___ Policy exception requests require a description of why the exception is required, potential risks, and the requested time period for the exception.
___ Policy exceptions are reviewed by the process owner and rationale for acceptance is documented.
Total Exception Handling Score ____ (4 – 16)
Health Check Component 4: Policy and Procedure Deployment Process
___ The approval process involves all relevant stakeholders and allows feedback and suggestions before approval.
___ Notification about approved policies and procedures is provided to employees based on role and function.
___ Your system handles the attestation process and certifies that policies are “read and understood” by employees.
___ Your system provides tools for developing and managing training for all applicable policies and procedures.
Total Deployment Score ____ (4 – 16)
Policy and Procedure Assessment Guide
How healthy is your policy and procedure management system? Use the guide below for each component to see what emphasis you should place on evaluating and improving your policy management system:
- 4 – 5: Excellent health! Very little improvement, if any, is needed.
- 6 – 8: Good health. There is some opportunity for improvement in specific areas.
- 9 – 12: Failing health. High priority improvement is required. Take steps to assess and improve the weakest areas first. Consider whether the policy management system you are using now is effective for your organization.
- 13 – 16: Poor health. Urgent improvement is required. Take immediate steps to assess your current policy management system and whether it is effective for your organization now and in the future.
Implementing or improving a policy management system requires a comprehensive approach. By breaking down and assessing the effectiveness of specific system functionalities, you can approach policy management in a structured way to address areas that need the most improvement first. By utilizing a standardized approach, a team of accountable leaders and the right automated solution, your policy and procedure management system should be the backbone of safety and compliance management activities. In a changing business environment, your system must adjust and adapt to the needs of your organization.