Jodie Flowerday, a Policy Advisor working in the New Zealand tertiary sector, discusses how to trouble-shoot a problem which can crop up in the workplace: What can you do when your compliance document fails to progress and stalls at the consultation stage?
When you work for a large organisation (or even a small one), there can be a number of people that might need to contribute to an organisation-wide compliance document (be it policy, guidelines etc.,) to ensure that it is fit-for-purpose. Consultation is a very important part of getting buy-in from your organisation around understanding the importance of the document’s content and achieving compliance requirements. So, consultation needs to be done and done well.
However, there are potential pitfalls that can come up and one of those is that the document can either:
- Become stuck with one person or group or,
- Get stuck in the consultation zone: a never-ending cycle where the document gets ping-ponged continuously amongst a number of stakeholders.
Where one person is the issue
To help progress a document through consultation where one person is causing the slow-down of the review or development process, consider these suggestions:
- Contact that person and inquire as to what you can do to assist to progress the document. Try and get a sense of their workload because this could mean that the document might not be their top priority. Suggest some timeframes and get them to agree to meet them based on what’s achievable to them.
- To help manage this, you might CC in that person’s line manager (but this might be less appropriate if their line manager has not been involved previously) or, there might be another person who is assisting them that you can also include in the conversation.
- Another option is to suggest a meeting where you can both edit the document together. This is a common approach I use because most of the time it’s simply a matter of helping people to make time to look at the document. Having an allocated time in their diary means this hurdle is overcome.
- It also pays to check whether anyone else might need to be at that meeting because there may be other people who need to contribute, whom the person has not had time to catch up with. You might have to act as a scribe in this case.
Where multiple people are the issue
When the document is stuck in the consultation zone amongst a number of stakeholders, it can be a bit trickier to progress but not impossible. You can still contact the groups involved and offer assistance. You could still facilitate the consultation and arrange a meeting to work with each group separately, or with nominated people from each group, to capture their feedback.
Being more involved at the consultation stage allows you to steer the groups on the direction the document needs to go and minimise the risk of discussions going off topic. However, the best defence is a good offense and preventing this issue from arising is possible.
One solution is to re-draft the document so it’s more principles-based rather than have detailed operational information – this seems to be what generates the most amount of feedback. Principles or fundamentals are generally easier to agree on than the detail and are less likely to change frequently than the actual nuts and bolts of how you might implement compliance measures.
Policy documents don’t need to be detailed operational manuals but instead provide direction and consistency in key areas at the operational level to ensure compliance. The “how” may be best addressed in an alternative way rather than by an organisation-wide compliance document.
Jodie Flowerday has been working in various roles since 2011. She currently works in the tertiary education sector in the role of Senior Policy Advisor for a tertiary education institution. Contact Jodie at Jodie.firstname.lastname@example.org or connect via LinkedIn