Monday, May 6, 2013

New Policy: Enforce our Old Policies

I don't know how much time is wasted in corporate America solving problems that have already been solved, but my guess would be alot. While a blog post about policy probably doesn't seem exciting I think a policy review of your new organization is one of the best ways get a feel for what exactly you have gotten yourself into. I see managers struggle every day to recreate rules and policies when, if you ask the hourly employees who have been around for a while, they will all tell you that there already is a rule/standard but people stopped enforcing it long ago.

Honestly, while there is a sick part of me that loves creating and revising policy, I never start creating until I do some research into what has existed in the past. In most cases, I find some sort of document or manual that lists everything I would have written anyway. Then I ask the question "Why did we stop using this?"

The unfortunate honest answer is that it was too inconvenient to revise and became so outdated people just stopped. A clear lack of discipline and effort. Because enforcing a dress code that requires women to wear a skirt or refers to an attendence system that no longer exists is ill advised and confusing. They don't change the policy, they just stop having rules altogether.

The funny thing is, in mature organizations, employees will still refer to those old rules or the old manual as if it was still in effect. Most of the time people never make a big announcement about the fact they don't have the discipline to keep their work rules up to date so the old timers assume it is still in effect (and they feel that all the new employees are getting away with murder). Employees lose respect for management and management loses their credibility to hold people accountable.

Sometimes when you go through the old manual you realize that it is not half bad. By revising and updating, most of your high tenure employees will readily accept the familiar rules and practices. Then you can focus yoru change management efforts on the pieces that need drastic change.