Policies guide an organization’s decision-making. They must fit with your Bylaws and the organization’s overall purpose. Policies help to provide consistency in decision making, especially in volunteer organizations where there is a lot of turnover. Policies should be reviewed regularly to ensure they remain relevant.
The following information has been developed based on guidelines provided by DIY Committee Guide.
1. Identify the need
You are developing a policy to help guide a decision.
- Some needs are easily identifiable, such as rules on who signs cheques for the organization.
- Others are not as obvious such as a policy requiring your association to have a coach director.
- Needs can be found through anticipation or reaction; your organization should be as prudent as possible in anticipating needs however for those situations where you are reacting, you should learn from the situation and develop a policy.
In addition to what is occurring within your organization, the external environment also factors into your decision making - other local minor hockey associations, other sport associations, and even society as a whole. One example of reacting to a need that is a factor outside your organization could be concussion management. Your organization may not have had a situation where one of your players suffered a major concussion and rushed back to play. However externally (in another sport) that situation has happened with significant consequences and it has forced all sports to examine their protocols.
2. Who will take the lead in development?
This is going to be the person or group who develops the policy. Best practice suggests that it should be done in a committee setting by bringing in a diverse set of people. Your committee does not need to be solely comprised of board members or even your membership; explore your community for committee members and strive for diversity. A great committee would have the following backgrounds: legal, risk management, parental, hockey, injury management (either prevention or treatment), and governance.
3. Gather information
The questions you should consider include:
- Do you have any legal responsibilities in this area?
- Is your understanding of the entire environment accurate and up to date?
- Have other organizations tackled this situation?
- Are there existing templates or examples from which you can draw?
- Where will you go for guidance if needed?
Hockey Alberta is a valuable resource in helping you answer these questions and provide you with guidance throughout the process.
4. Draft the Policy
When writing a policy, there are some key things to remember:
- Summarize the idea or action that you want to be used as the guiding principle for members to follow. Remember to include:
- PURPOSE statement: why the policy is being created and the desired outcome of the policy (i.e. the desired positive benefit or the negative effect you are trying to avoid).
- SCOPE statement: who the policy affects and which actions are impacted by the policy. It may include/ exclude certain people or actions from the policy requirements. This statement is used to focus the policy on the desired target, and avoid unintended consequences where possible.
- RESPONSIBILITY statement: which parties and/or groups are responsible for carrying out the policy. Responsibilities often include execution, identification of any relevant oversight or follow up.
- REQUIREMENTS statement: the specific regulations, requirements, or modifications to organizational behavior that the policy is creating.
- HISTORY statement: background information or history that led to the creation of the policy.
- SUMMARY statement: a summary of the intent of the policy. When a policy is evaluated or used in ambiguous situations, the summary helps ensure you don’t forget the original intent of the policy.
When you build a draft, ensure the language is easy to understand for the audience that you are expecting to implement and follow. Some other things to consider are:
- Provide clear and unambiguous definitions for terms and concepts found in the policy.
- Outline specific methods or steps required to ensure the policy is implemented and followed in the day-to-day operations
- When is the policy enacted? Under what circumstances would the policy come into play? Are there any time constraints or dates that must be adhered to? Are there any dates for review or follow up?
- Who is responsible for ensuring the policy is enacted and adhered to?
- What additional steps or procedures are required to implement the policy and ensure the expected outcomes are met?
5. Consult with appropriate stakeholders
Policy implementation and buy-in are most effective when those affected feel they are part of the process through ongoing consultation; this also can help identify and work out any potential issues. When determining who to consult consider who will be impacted. For example, if it is a governance related policy, ask some of your board members or even neighboring associations. If it is an on-ice safety policy, ask players, coaches, and trainers.
6. Approve the Policy
Once you have consulted with stakeholders and worked out any issues, present the final policy to your board for approval.
7. Consider if Procedures are required
This will be discussed more in depth in the next section - How to Develop Procedures. Typically procedures are more likely to be required when there needs to be clear guidance on how to implement a policy such as: screening policies, complaint handling policies, or team selection policies.
8. Implement the Policy
It is not enough to say the policy has been approved; you must consider how you are going to communicate it, if there is training that is required, who will manage the policy, and any other questions. Without proper implementation, all the hard work done to get to this point can be all for naught.
9. Monitor, review, and revise
The policy development process is not finished with implementation - rather it is constantly ongoing and evolving.
- How are you going to ensure the policy is being followed?
- Is the policy doing what it was intended to do? If not, what needs to be change?
- Are there changing factors that require the policy to be revised?
Your organization should have a plan in place to review Bylaws, Policies, and Procedures to ensure they are relevant and up to date. Items should be reviewed every three to five years and one way of doing this is to have a committee whose purpose is to review Bylaws, Policies, and Procedures. Each year they can review a few sections or areas or in bylaws in one year, policies in a second, and procedures in a third.