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Policies & Ponies: More than a Pet Project

If you are have been a client, student, or regular reader of mine, then you have heard me say numerous times how important well thought out governance policies are to organizations of all stripes.

This begins with actually having a policy, for if you don’t, then there is no way to demonstrate that someone actually did anything wrong! This is why, for example, there are laws on the books that prohibit texting while driving – yes, it may seem evident that doing so is colossally dangerous and stupid, but until it became illegal, there was no legal recourse to pursue when accidents or deaths occurred as a result.

The next step, of course, is to take the time to fully consider the issues at hand and write your policies with a suitable level of granularity: not so specifically that you leave the door open to unforeseen circumstances, and yet not so broad that they provide little or no guidance at all.

A good example here relates to policies governing external communications vs. having one policy for Facebook, one for Twitter, one for Google+, etc. Making it too specific means you have to revisit it every time a new tool or technology comes over the horizon, or someone marches through a loophole that you never even thought might even exist. But making it too broad means you don’t acknowledge and accommodate the differences between, say, issuing press releases, writing brochure copy, and creating blogs posts. Here, you might want to strike the balance by having one policy geared toward “marketing communication” and another that focuses on “the use and management of social media.”

To further illustrate the concept, let me point you to, and close with, Tuesday’s news item, which involves a man shopping at his local liquor store with his pet pony in tow. The sign on the door prohibited entry to dogs and cats, but it said nothing about other kinds of animals. So did he violate the policy? You be the judge.

Just remember that the same applies to those signs that read “shirt and shoes required” and make no mention of pants …

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