10 Best Practices for Policy Management

Policies mandate, specify, or prohibit conduct to enhance an organization’s mission, ensure coordinated compliance with applicable laws and regulations, promote operational efficiency, and/or reduce organizational risk. This might sound overwhelming from a policy management point of view, but the right methodology can help set you up for success. Read on for 10 tips on how to organize your approach, streamline your policy management processes, and manage policies effectively.

  1. Assign a policy manager. Assigning a policy manager declares clear ownership for the policy, avoiding unnecessary confusion or duplication of efforts. A policy manager assumes responsibility for developing and administering policy, which includes policy interpretation and enforcement, as well as development of related procedures, processes, instructions, forms, and revisions.
  2. Determine what policies are needed. Take an inventory of policies across your unit. Do any of your existing policies duplicate existing higher-order mandates (such as state statute or UW System policy)? Remember, a higher-order policy (or statute) supersedes university, division, or unit policy if the latter contradicts or is less restrictive than the higher-order policy. Where possible, eliminate duplicative policy. Conversely, consider whether there are any gaps in your policies. For example, is new policy needed to clear up confusion about an appropriate way to behave, comply with government laws, establish work standards, or provide consistent and fair treatment for employees? Finally, remember that you might not need a policy at all, but rather a procedure or guidelines.
  3. Define the workflow. Create a process for the creation of policy in your division or unit. The process should detail who writes the policy, who reviews the policy, and who can approve, rescind, or veto a policy.
  4. Collaborate with internal stakeholders. Robust stakeholder engagement should occur throughout the policy development, review, and revision processes. A team approach ensures that the policy is not created in a vacuum. As a result, policy should align with the environment, culture, and resources of the university.
  5. Vet your policy with external groups. In keeping with the university’s commitment to transparency, collaboration, and shared decision-making, consult with employees outside of your unit, including UW–Madison governance groups and diverse audiences. Apply an equity lens to your work; if the policy creates a negative impact or barriers to under-served and marginalized individuals or groups, attempt to revise to erase or mitigate these disparate impacts.
  6. Check for accuracy and compliance. Leadership within your division or unit should be a source of support when it comes to reviewing a policy for accuracy and compliance. The policy library coordinator is ready to assist with answering additional questions; the coordinator can also make referrals to other university offices that may be helpful in reviewing draft policies.
  7. Ensure that the policy is the sole source of truth. One of the most important aspects of good policy management is ensuring that the policy posted in the UW–Madison Policy Library is the sole version of a given policy. Do not post additional versions in a department folder or Intranet; those documents can create confusion or become outdated. If you must make mention of policies on web pages, in KnowledgeBases, or in other places, link those mentions directly to the policies in the UW–Madison Policy Library.
  8. Be proactive in reviewing policies. Policies should be subject to regular review to ensure that your policies keep up with changes to other institutional rules and regulations. Include a review process in your policy workflow. The review process should indicate who starts the review, how often to review, and how to update the policy. You can add a review schedule to your unit’s policies in the UW-Madison policy library, which is a good way to ensure that you are reviewing your policies on a periodic basis.
  9. Document all policy modifications. Tracking policy change is important for administrative and legal purposes. One of the benefits of the UW–Madison Policy Library is that the policy library does this work for you. If you are entering a new policy in the library, you will need to incorporate information pertaining to historical modifications in the template.
  10. Communicate changes. The policy creation process does not end when the new or revised policy is published in the policy library. Make sure that you have a plan to communicate new or updated policies to every appropriate constituent group.

For more information and resources on policy management, refer to the policy development page on the policy library website.