A Company’s Official Stance Vs It’s Practical Stance
For many companies, their policies are what they claim to stand for. They tend to be designed for compliance with the government, but they can also address things believed to be important such as business ethics, quality standards, how to treat other employees (aside from what’s legally required) and how to operate efficiently. The list can literally go on for a while given all the requirements a company may have. Additionally, some policies (or similar) stem from having a big, nasty event where people were significantly hurt, or perhaps there was substantial property damage to a company’s facility. Regardless of what caused the development of any given policy, the question becomes how well do companies actually follow all of those policies? Is a wand waved, thou shalt do or not do such and such, or some other mandate mean that compliance will be had? Well, some company policies may not be liked by employees. What happens if they don’t follow it? This is where company policy may fail if not supported.
Here’s an example I think will help illustrate what I mean. The speed limit on a road you are traveling on is 55 miles per hour. However, most drive at 75 miles per hour on it. Why is that when the law is 20 miles per hour lower? Well it just so happens that to some, the law or regulations just don’t matter all that much if the law enforcement never, you know, enforces said law or regulation. It doesn’t necessarily have to be that people are intentionally not following the rules or law. Sometimes they just get used to do things a given way if nothing is enforced. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for people to think, even subconsciously, that if something isn’t important enough to enforce, it isn’t important enough to follow. That can be quite erroneous thinking, but I find it relatable however wrong it may be.
Company Practical Stance
This is where the rubber meets the proverbial road. It can be argued that this is who and what the company is. If you could be a fly on the wall of the organization, nothing would get passed you. And you may be shocked at what you mind find. I’d say that the practical stance is the authentic company without all the pomp and circumstance, fancy image, or lofty goals. I find this akin to a regular person as they wake up and start grooming themselves for a normal day. Nothing special.
This is also what the company tends make sure happens. This is the doing and not just the talking. Often, this will be making production numbers, doing what they can to get sales and retain customers. This is everything the company thinks it needs to do to succeed. Unfortunately, this can be vastly different from it’s official stance. It takes quite a bit of effort to do more than what you think you need to to get the job done, especially if you already think and feel that you are strapped just to accomplish what you do accomplish. It can be easy to think that the rules are nice and probably where you should be, but they don’t affect my operation in any real, meaningful way.
Bridging the Gap
Well, the reason why company policy isn’t particularly important until it matches what the company actually does, is because the doing (or not doing) is what affects a company for good or bad. Remember the speed limit example? Did we have compliance with that? Now, my experience tells me that there can be numerous reasons for why company policies and practical stances don’t line up with each other. A big reason can come from a poor understanding of what is necessary for implementing and maintaining a given policy at the ground level. For instance, you can train someone to be a safe mobile equipment operator as long as you like. But, they likely won’t operate in a safe manner if actions of supervisors and managers is to meet your production numbers. And it doesn’t have to come from anyone intentionally trying to prioritize production over safety, quality, or anything else. It is just a natural result of putting most of the priority there.
Another big reason for company policy failing to reach the ground level is not accounting for the current culture. If people have been used to doing something for many years, and the company ups and changes something, it’s going to take some time for people to get used to doing it a different way. There can be a sort of “inertia” or general resistance to change because change can be hard and scary. Think about all the habits you have. Now, think about changing just one of them. What did you come up with for effective ways to make changes? Have you done any of them yet?
With all of that said, there are practical ways to merge company policy with the practical stance of the company. Here are some items to look at closely when you want to merge company policy with its practical stance:
Senior management must understand that to achieve some policy changes, resources, personnel, training, or other things may be needed to achieve successful implementation.
Management must seek out to the best of it’s ability what the practical stance of the company is.
Management should solicit input from a variety of employees at a lower level than themselves to get buy in as well as valuable insights on where issues may be as well as how to improve.
Senior management should have the attitude of doing what it reasonably can to set it’s employees up for success. Only after doing that to at least a reasonable extent, should it consider things like discipline. We are all human after all.
Senior and lower level management must put a similar level of priority towards any changes they make, including the consequences for failure to adhere to policy.
Whatever someone is afraid of happening if they don’t get their numbers, should have a similar concern for that happening if they don’t meet other criteria.
You may have noticed that I put a lot of emphasis on management, in particular senior management. Additionally, the list I gave is in no way meant to be all encompassing. But think about it. Who usually has the power of the purse in a company? Is it the lower level workers? Or is it often at least a supervisor or higher? Remember where I said that resources are needed? What would happen if an employee purchased something on the behalf of the company, and they aren’t authorized to make purchases? They could get in trouble as often can be the case when money is involved. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need things to be successful!
There is probably not going to be a quick and easy way to make your policy and practical stances align. But one of the most important things that can be done is acknowledging that there is a need to do exactly that. Having a solution oriented disposition, and avoiding blame, can help bridge the gab between what’s official and what’s practical. It may seem hard, but the return on the investment can be a tremendous benefit to the company. You won’t know until you take a look with an open, reasonable mind.