Definition of Policy

Definition Last Updated 17-Dec-2015 12:51

A policy1The etymology of policy is intimately associated with an archaic meaning of the term police as a set of rules for the preservation of order and enforcement of law (ultimately from the Greek polis, a city), leading to the (obsolete) use of policy as a (political) constitution; hence policy as guidance on what constitutes good conduct in an organisation. establishes the limits of acceptable organisational behaviour; it is kind of specification for the quality assurance of behaviour, a set of prescriptive2Permissive or proscriptive. rules that apply to an organisation, or to members3Where the members may be people or other organisations. of an organisation4Of any scale, from one person with specific accoutrements for a recognised purpose, e.g. a self-employed plumber as a “one person plumbing organisation”, through clubs, associations, committees, businesses, councils, assemblies, parliaments, congresses, states etc. to supra-national entities such as the United Nations. by virtue of their membership.

Not all rules necessarily apply to everyone all the time; the applicability of individual rules is determined by the criteria they embody.

Examples

A sexual non-discrimination policy may state as a primary obligation on all members of an organisation that they are not to prefer or disadvantage another by virtue of the other’s biological, perceived or self-perceived sexual identity – together with secondary obligations to investigate fairly allegations of discrimination in violation of the policy and take appropriate corrective or mitigating actions including discipline, education, provision of support, etc. as appropriate.

A law is a policy of a state or supra-national body.

Scope

Policy is a defined term of Enterprise Architecture. Policy is a defined term of Business Analysis. Policy is a defined term of Management.

Discussion

Article Last Updated 17-Dec-2015 12:51

In addition to specifying the behavioural obligations of members to the organisation, each other or to others, policies may also govern the organisation itself in its relations with other organisations and individuals, in which case (the organisation having no existence other than as constituted by its members) the obligations of the organisation necessarily become obligations on the members.

In addition to the primary obligations set out by policies, in the event that the primary obligations are not fulfilled other obligations are also typically specified. A well-written policy necessarily includes primary obligations, which constitute quality assurance provisions, but should also include:

  • A rationale, providing traceability to higher level policies (including laws etc.), corporate values etc.
  • Quality control provisions stating how compliance or non-compliance is to be determined
  • Provisions for motivating compliance and for managing instances of non-compliance

The development and establishment of policies is an aspect of management generally and governance in particular.

The rules embodied by a policy are not dependent on the validity of the rationale, or the effectiveness of the motivational, management or quality control measures. However, the existence of the rationale ensures that the relevance of a policy is easy to maintain: if higher level policies change, lower level policies should be reviewed lest their rationales cease to be sound.

Notes   [ + ]

1.The etymology of policy is intimately associated with an archaic meaning of the term police as a set of rules for the preservation of order and enforcement of law (ultimately from the Greek polis, a city), leading to the (obsolete) use of policy as a (political) constitution; hence policy as guidance on what constitutes good conduct in an organisation.
2.Permissive or proscriptive.
3.Where the members may be people or other organisations.
4.Of any scale, from one person with specific accoutrements for a recognised purpose, e.g. a self-employed plumber as a “one person plumbing organisation”, through clubs, associations, committees, businesses, councils, assemblies, parliaments, congresses, states etc. to supra-national entities such as the United Nations.

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