How to Write an Actionable Policy and Procedure Template (ISO Compliant!)

Policy and procedure document

Let’s get straight to the point – you’re probably searching for a policy and procedure template you can actually use (bonus points if it’s ISO compliant).

So, if you just want an actionable policy and procedure template, you can find two hand-crafted examples below. One of them is basically a blueprint you can use to build out your own, and the other is a fully filled out example of the first, using a fictional company called Brightstar Marketing.

Both can be easily edited and updated by you inside Process Street.

Policy and Procedure Template

This policy and procedure template structure is designed for you to use as a blueprint; a skeleton to flesh out and support your own QMS mini-manual. The placeholder text in this template provides instructions as to the kind of content you will need to include.

Below is an example of what the above template structure might look like once it’s completely filled in, using the fictional Brightstar Marketing company. Use it as a reference point for how to properly fill out and use your template.

Now that we’ve dealt with the elephant in the room, I’ll take some time to break down some strategies for improving standard operating procedure (SOP) implementation using the tools and techniques of BPM.

No doubt you understand the power of SOPs. You might already have some experience with implementing them in your business. You also probably realize that traditional SOP implementations sometimes just aren’t good enough.

Truth is, SOPs can be huge detriments to your business. It all depends on how you’re using them. That’s why it’s so important that your policy and procedure templates are actionable.

Paper documentation makes procedural change so incredibly slow and severely limits your process management capabilities. It’s also near impossible to automate anything like that.

Luckily, since the 2015 revision of the ISO 9001 specification, it’s never been easier to make your SOPs highly actionable, and even automated while still adhering to the highest standards in town!

Using Process Street, you can now be ISO compliant and do everything you need to do with one piece of free, easy-to-use, quick-to-learn software.

In this Process Street article we’ll cover:

  • Do’s and don’ts of implementing SOPs
  • Why traditional SOPs can be limiting
  • How BPM can improve your policies and procedures
  • A policy and procedure template structure for an ISO 9000 QMS mini-manual
  • Practically applying BPM to your policy and procedure template
  • A fully filled out and actionable ISO 9000 policy and procedure template

What’s so good about SOPs?

Properly implemented SOPs allow you to:

  • Reduce human error
  • Lower costs across the board
  • Save time and money in general
  • Guarantee compliance
  • Achieve consistent success
  • Support good workflows
  • Maintain and manage quality
  • Assign different tasks within a workflow
  • Actually use them

But, how do you define a “properly implemented SOP”?

Properly implemented SOPs

Policy and procedure document

Of course, all SOPs are different; the specific implementation will depend on the nature of that specific process. However, your SOPs should always reflect your business goals.

How you choose to approach documenting and implementing your SOPs will often come down to the waterfall vs agile debate.

Some of your procedures will require extensive planning, whereas others are perfectly functional with essentially zero prep time, forming an ongoing process of experimentation and iterative improvement.

A “properly implemented SOP” is an SOP that works. It sounds obvious, but much of the time, traditionally implemented SOPs, with all their belabored ISO compliance, end up being of little to no use due to their unwieldy and cumbersome nature.

Why traditional SOPs can be limiting

policy and procedure document

Lots of companies don’t actually follow their SOPs, often because they exist in huge, dusty process manuals which are difficult and unwieldy to use.

They’re also difficult to improve or make changes to, because even the smallest change requires that the entire manual be completely re-distributed to everyone who’s using it. It’s a logistical nightmare (not to mention a waste of paper).

If you have SOPs but you’re not following them, then there’s a good chance you aren’t employing backup quality management systems. Which could actually put you in an even worse position than someone who doesn’t even have SOPs to begin with.

Crazy, I know!

If not implemented properly, SOPs can do more harm than good, meaning you risk:

  • Erosion of, or distraction from quality standards
  • Increased human error
  • Heightened costs for specialized training
  • Wasted time and money at every step along the process
  • Nobody actually reads or uses them

If we’re talking about “poorly implemented SOPs”, it’s important to be clear about what constitutes good SOPs.

Introducing Business Process Management (BPM)

policy and procedure document

Business process management can be really powerful, but just as with SOPs, it really depends on how you’re handling it.

Well-implemented BPM allows you to:

  • Increase revenue
  • Reduce costs
  • Achieve compliance
  • Mitigate risks
  • Improve productivity
  • Improve customer satisfaction
  • Gain competitive advantage
  • Change and scale your processes with agility

Using BPM to improve your policies and procedures

Using BPM to build, manage, and deploy ISO-compliant SOPs can be thought of as Agile ISO.

The principle of Agile ISO is simple: to streamline ISO compliance using the tools and principles of BPM, which means being able to quickly and effortlessly build and modify new processes in collaboration with others, with the goal of developing a robust process library that is actionable, automated, effective, and efficient. This approach avoids many of the pitfalls of traditional SOP implementation.

Process Street for Agile ISO

Process Street is a tool that lets you quickly and easily create, standardize, and share workflow processes and procedures, so you can achieve actionable, fully compliant SOPs with a single piece of software.

Templates in Process Street are functional, actionable containers for the policies and procedures in your company. You can use templates, like the ISO-9000 Structure Template below, to maintain a Quality Management System (QMS), as well as manage and run the individual workflows and procedures that are part of that QMS.

You’ll be more in control of logistics and tracking of work done across your company, as procedures are run as individual checklists, which you can track with the Inbox and Template Overview features.

Documenting and maintaining your policies and procedures is also incredibly easy with Process Street’s intuitive template editing system, so you can rapidly update and collaborate with others on the processes you build.

Even the process of maintaining and updating the QMS is enhanced with BPM software.

Quality management systems function to align business operations with the goal of achieving a consistent and predictable standard of quality. But, if a QMS standard or record is erroneously published, traditionally rectifying that error (or simply improving on an existing QMS) is an incredibly slow and laborious process.

Quality management systems are almost always a lot more complicated than the graphs and diagrams used to convey them. You can break a QMS down into three main parts:

  1. Document how each process in your business works, and what business goal that process is trying to achieve.
  2. Document all of the ways you could potentially improve the processes in your business.
  3. Document everything you’ve done, especially things you’ve changed during this improvement process, and update the processes documented in step 1.

These three steps can then be repeated ad nauseam.

Many organizations like to use quality management systems because it means they can flaunt all sorts of diagrams and charts showing all the different parts of the business working together. However, having and maintaining an extensively documented QMS alone does not mean your business is ISO 9001 compliant; the QMS needs to be implemented and functional (read: actually working) throughout the company.

With Process Street, your QMS can be easily edited with new information and shared between interested parties so that each person can easily make changes as necessary, without the sluggish constraints of bureaucracy typical at this level of corporate regulation.

So far I’ve been quite theoretical, so let’s look at some more practical examples.

ISO-9000 Structure Template: The ultimate policy and procedure template

The template below was designed to help you build standard operating procedures in line with ISO-9001:2015 specifications for QMS Mini-Manual.

It is basically a quality management system and a set of quality assurance policies.

Practically applying BPM to your policy and procedure template

This is not a particularly new idea, but it’s only since the 2015 revision of the ISO 9000 standard that it’s become practical.

Basically, the 2015 version added a bunch of scope which meant companies had more flexibility and agility than ever in their approach to getting ISO certified.

Now, if you fill out the above template so that it contains all of your company quality policies and all your procedure overviews, you can use that template as the central reference guide for all the processes in your organization.

Each procedure overview can link out to the relevant actionable Process Street template for that procedure. The process can then be followed by employees inside Process Street as a checklist, which means you have a record of every time that procedure was followed.

Those actionable processes operate as procedures, work instructions, and forms – so your employee knows what they’re doing, how to do it, and can provide evidence of their work into the checklist as they go.

If you want to see what Process Street’s actionable processes look like, you can jump to the end of this article where we have provided links to every procedure mentioned in our fully built out policy and procedure template example, shown right here:

What an actionable mini-manual looks like

Below is a fully built out mini-manual using the ISO 9000 structure template above.

Using Process Street’s export to .pdf feature, the mini-manual can be consolidated into a handy report, which will look something like this:

ISO-9000 Marketing Procedures

7 tips for writing quality policies

A well-written quality policy should aim to incorporate as many of the following points as possible:

  1. Clearly defined business and quality goals
  2. Clear and concise language
  3. A quality policy which has been communicated throughout the company
  4. A clear picture/map of your organizational structure (including roles and responsibilities)
  5. Unambiguous, actionable documentation of your main operating processes (like a process manual)
  6. A constant process for quality assessment and improvement
  7. Documentation of efforts of process/quality improvement

16 tips for writing standard operating procedures

SOPs must be well-written in order to be effective. The process described should be concise, easy-to-read, and laid up in a clear step-by-step format. Information needs to be unambiguous and not overly complicated, especially when there are instructions to be dictated.

Below are 16 informal steps that can function as guidelines for writing your SOPs. While informal, they are just as well-suited to an ISO 9001 standard framework, as they are for your more informal SOP requirements:

  1. Understand how you will present your SOPs
  2. Gather the relevant stakeholders
  3. Work out your purpose
  4. Determine the structure of your SOP
  5. Prepare the scope of the procedure
  6. Use a consistent style
  7. Use correct notation, if applicable
  8. Work through all the necessary steps of the process
  9. Try to assess potential problems in the process
  10. Determine metrics against which SOPs can be judged
  11. Test the process
  12. Send the process to superiors
  13. Clarify the method of optimizing the process
  14. Run a risk assessment on the process
  15. Consider creating a flow diagram
  16. Finalize and implement the SOPs

For a more in-depth look at each of these steps, check out this article on writing standard operating procedures.

All the processes our digital marketing company uses in its mini-manual

Below I’ve listed all of the processes documented in the fleshed-out mini-manual. You can click through each of these processes to find one you might use in your business:

I know, we spoil you! Log in to the Process Street platform to browse all of our premade templates which you can input directly into your business – and new QMS! – with ease.

Did you agree with the comments about using BPM together with SOPs? Perhaps you are utilizing different techniques to streamline your SOPs and ISO compliance? Let us know in the comments below!

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Oliver Peterson

Oliver Peterson is a content writer for Process Street with an interest in systems and processes, attempting to use them as tools for taking apart problems and gaining insight into building robust, lasting solutions.

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