Tim's Blog

Procedures affect organisational culture!


Why do we write procedures, work instructions, SOPs? This is an important question because unless we are clear on their purpose, we will be working in the dark. And the answer I suggest below might surprise you.



Procedures regulate behaviour


There are two levels of answer to this question. The first is fairly obvious – procedures help in regulating staff behaviour by assisting in:


  • training staff
  • giving staff guidance when performing tasks (post-training)
  • establishing due diligence – to cover our butts if something goes wrong.


But procedures do more than this. They also play an important part in determining the culture of our whole organisation.





Procedures reflect organisational culture


An organisation’s culture (ie. its collective social behaviour) are determined in large by two factors:


  • the day-to-day behaviour of its supervisors, managers and especially senior managers
  • the systems managers put in place (and procedures are integral to those systems).


Think about your own organisation and how you feel about it. You will agree, I think, that it is greatly influenced by the behaviour and attitudes of managers in your organisation.


The systems these managers put in place generally reflect their attitudes and their behaviour. These systems can reflect positive or negative values eg. trust or distrust. The old system of clocking-on and clocking-off is an example of distrusting system.



Procedures send a message


Almost all systems have documentation of some sort, usually procedures (or work instructions, or SOPs), and these will, like it or not, transmit messages to those staff who use them. A poor quality procedure might “say” “this job is not important enough to warrant the time to write a good procedure”. A procedure with too much detail might say “I’ve spelled out every little detail because you are not very bright (or I don’t trust you). A skimpy procedure might say “I really don’t care how you do this task”.


So, procedures send messages to employees. They can contribute to building a healthy culture within your organisation, or they can add to a poor culture.