December 2, 2023

Policies and procedures writers have been faced with the dilemma of finding ways to get people to follow the content of policies and procedures for decades. Writers have tried everything from:

  1. Training
  2. Communications
  3. Coaching and Mentoring
  4. Hand-holding
  5. Newsletter articles
  6. Posting on a bulletin board
  7. Videotape, DVD
  8. Auditing
  9. And much more

These traditional methods can work in some cases but let’s be honest, unless these traditional methods are routinely done, there is no way to ensure that policies and procedures are followed.

There are some “sure-fire” methods to ensure policies and procedures are followed. My two favorites are “Control Points” and “Buy-In”. As I have written articles on “Buy-In,” I won’t focus on it other than to say that “If you solicit the help of your users as you are writing policies and procedures, then the chances of those users following the policies and procedures are much higher.”

On to “Control Points”:  Control points are “built-in” mechanisms that either help an individual follow the instructions of a policy or procedure or force the individual to follow the instructions. Let me explain. 

  1. In the first case, you simply build these mechanisms into your policy or procedure. For example, you might have a procedure that requires the approval of the “X” individual. In this case, you would insist (and you can audit the individual as well) that this “X” individual only sign whatever he/she is presented, when the PROCESS BEFORE has been properly followed. And to reject (or not sign) when the PROCESS appears to be broken. For example, if the procedure is on purchase requisitions and certain fields are required and when the “X” individual receives the requisition and these certain fields are not filled in, then voila, the “X” individual should reject the document! And now the process works.
  2. This control point can also be a form that only contains the correct fields to enter and better yet, on electronic forms, the form can be designed to “stop” the completion of the form (or force a correct answer) by insisting on specific required fields.

You get the point. 

One last tidbit: Control points work well when management believes in doing the right thing but if you have management that lets things slid, then your work of assuring compliance is just going to be harder.

In conclusion, I would suggest using all of the traditional methods and incorporate “control points” wherever possible.