LOPSA Policies/Policy creation and maintenance
Policy approved by the Board on 12 September 2005.
Policy is the means by which the Board governs. Every policy must have one of the following purposes:
- Delegation of an end (such as a program, or project) that furthers the Mission, e.g.:
- Policy on publications
- Policy on conferences
- Policy on a member benefit
- Ensuring organizational governance and prudence, e.g.:
- Finance policy
- Reimbursement policy
- Specifying some aspect of the Board relationship with members, staff, or the public
- Communications policy
- Sexual harassment or nondiscrimination policies
- Specifying internal policies for how the Board works
- Committees policy
- Reimbursement policy
Some policies will straddle #2-4 above (e.g., reimbursement policy). Delegation policies, however, should be self-contained, in order to promote clarity and honesty in delegation.
The Association specifies how it works via policies, processes and procedures.
- Documents that state the will of the Board (goals or ends) and mechanisms for handling points of concern, risk, or anxiety (limitations).
- Structures that ensure oversight, preservation of rights, and stability. Processes are included in policy, largely as a manifestation of limitations.
- Implementations of the policy and process. Procedures are not included in policy.
For instance, a policy on logoed apparel might state that apparel should be comfortable and attractive to promote the Association's visibility (policy), and that samples should be procured before production to ensure this (process). But the policy should not specify the type of fabric, how samples are procured, who gets the sample, and so on (procedure).
Policies should be minimal — they should not overspecify. Policies should be adaptable to changing conditions without requiring constant amendment.
Implementations should not be specified in policy. Policies should be "Board-level" documents. Purpose and rationale should be specified, however.
Board relationship and internal policies, for example the policy on Board votes via email, are an exception. These should be less minimal because the "implementors" are, by definition, the Board itself.
Minimalism should not lead to a lack of completeness. The Board should write policy such that it would be happy with any reasonable implementation that adheres to the policy's wording. In particular, the Board should take care to include limitations precluding results the Board would find unacceptable.
The Board should be invested in policy. The Board should craft policy to document the will of the Board, without engaging in rubber-stamping, word-smithing or criticizing. In practice, one or more individuals may be assigned to write a policy proposal. But the approved policy belongs to the Board, not the authors of any particular proposal.
In order to keep policy vested in the Board, authors of proposed policies shall call out decision points, be ready to explain the ramifications of such choices, and be ready with alternate language.
The Board is not the implementing body of the Association's goals; that role falls to staff and volunteers. The Board expresses its will for programs, projects and other ends via delegation policies.
In drafting delegation policies, the Board should strive to delegate honestly.
Delegation policies should pass the Plain English Test: An uninterested third party should be able to read the text of a policy, look at the results, and be able to judge whether the results meet the requirements of the policy.
Policy is the "in-band" communication mechanism from Board to implementors. "Out-of-band" communication (statements by liaisons, sense-of-the-Board communiqués, etc.) are strictly advisory or interpretational; if substantive course-corrections are required, the policy should be amended.
If the result of a delegation is unsatisfactory, but the results meet the "Plain English Test", the policy should be amended to encapsulate the Board's new understanding. Simply telling implementors to try again is unacceptable.
When amendments to delegation policies are made, they should ideally be clarifications where the policy could be read as ambiguous. Otherwise the Board can (rightly) be accused of changing the rules after the fact. If the Board learns, after delegation, that it requested the wrong thing, it should own up to its error and amend the policy.
Implementors being delegated to must be made aware of this process before implementation begins. If a delegation policy is to be amended after implementation has begun, the implementors should ideally be involved in the process; but they must be made aware that the process is not a negotiation, and the Board holds final authority.
Policies should be living documents; moribund or irrelevant policies should be discarded or revitalized.
If a policy cannot be exactly followed by the "Plain English Test", the policy should be fixed. Saying that things have changed, or that the policy must be put into context, is unacceptable.
If programs end or circumstances change, the policies should be retired. A retired policy is effectively repealed, but is moved aside and kept for historical record as a policy that worked, separate from repealed policies that were rejected because they didn't work.