Write separate policy and procedure manuals or write a document covering the policies and procedures

July 22, 2021 0 Comments

A policy and procedure writing dilemma: Are separate policy and procedure manuals created or is a single document created containing both policy and procedure statements?

Most of my colleagues will say that they write separate policy and procedure manuals. In other words, there is a manual that contains only policy documents and there is a manual that contains only procedural documents. I have found few situations where this makes sense. Let me explain my concerns with this practice. In my policy and procedure books, I suggest and advocate the inclusion of policy statements within procedures and therefore eliminate the need for a second policy manual. My method is much more practical for reference and writing purposes, as we will see later in this article.

Referencing issues in two places becomes unreasonable with SEPARATE policy and procedure manuals

The problem with the existence of two manuals (policy manual and a procedure manual) is that the policy and procedure of the same or similar topic often contain duplicate information. When a reader refers to one manual and points to another manual, it is rare that this person makes the effort to refer to the second manual. This is just a fact of life, a fact that I have learned from over 30 years of experience in the field. Even when the physical manuals are located side by side, I have found that it is rare for the reader to look for one for the policy guide and the other for the how-to guide.

Let’s look at a real example: if I want to read a hiring procedure and it references a policy statement in a separate policy manual, it is highly unlikely that I will take the extra time to find the policy statement in the second manual. I am more likely to click a hyperlink in an online manual, but even this practice draws my attention away from the current document. And the reader would be fortunate if the reader had taken the time to place hyperlinks within the policy or procedure document that allows the reader to switch from one document to another.

This problem of referencing policies and procedures found in two manuals is compounded when the manuals are physically separate from one another. For example, I worked in a company where the policy manual resided on my manager’s shelf and the procedures manual resided on a shelf closest to the users. Oh! This practice only further exacerbates the experience for readers because the reference manual is not even close enough for them to access the reference documents if they wish.

It is difficult for the writer to maintain policies and procedures on the same or a similar topic

This second problem of maintaining a separate policy or procedure manual revolves around the process of keeping policies and procedures up to date. If I write a policy on hiring practices for a company, chances are there will be duplication from policy to procedure and procedure to policy. In my experience, there are redundancies from policies to procedures and it is often difficult to write different content about policies and procedures on the same or similar topics.

THERE IS A SITUATION where it makes sense to have two manuals

I only know of one situation where the existence of two manuals makes sense. When a company strives to be certified to ISO quality standards, there is often a requirement (of the standards) to keep policies and procedures separate in two manuals. Therefore, if a company-supported program is in place, such as ISO Quality Standards, Six Sigma, or the Capability Maturity Model (CMM), the policy and procedure writer will need to comply with the requirements of this program including when practices might not be. they seem practical as in the case of separate policy and procedure manuals.

Now let’s move on to what makes the most sense: the built-in policy statement

Since 1984, I have advocated the use of a writing format that incorporates the policy statement with a procedural document. In my seven section writing format, the third section is the Policy Section and this is where policy statements are written, no matter how long. The policy and procedure writer can produce one of two types of documents: First, a procedure document with embedded policy statements. In this case, the title of the hiring policy and procedure could read: HIRING PROCEDURE.

The second type of document is a title that does not use the word Procedure. The title of the document could be RECRUITMENT GUIDELINES. This practice has been adopted by thousands of companies around the world in more than 90 countries because it eliminates the need for two separate manuals. In both cases, the third section of the writing form would be labeled Policy. Here is an example of this writing format:

  1. Purpose
  2. Scope
  3. Politics
  4. Definitions
  5. Responsibilities
  6. Procedures
  7. Historical review

BENEFITS of using a policy statement embedded in a procedure

  1. It is not necessary to produce a separate policy manual and a separate procedures manual.
  2. Quick access and reference to both procedural statements and policy statements in one document.
  3. There is no duplication of section content within the policy-to-procedure or procedure-to-policy writing format. For example, if there is a hiring policy and a hiring process procedure, the purpose, scope, definitions, and responsibilities sections of the writing format may be duplicated.
  4. Extremely easy to write policies and procedures using a simple seven section writing format.

DISADVANTAGES of using a policy statement embedded in a procedure

  1. When management requires a separate policy and procedure manual and is not convinced to incorporate policy statements into a general document.
  2. When management has adopted a standard such as the ISO 9000 quality standards, Six Sigma, or the capability maturity model and that standard requires the creation of separate policy and procedure manuals.


The drafting dilemma of writing two separate policy and procedure manuals or using generic policy and procedure titles and incorporating the policy statements into section three of the seven-section drafting format. not a dilemma at all because when you look closely at this method of using section three of the seven-section writing format to describe policy statements, I think you will agree with my rationale and advice.

So do yourself a favor and learn how to embed your policy statements in a procedure document and, better yet, headline your documents in a general way and at the same time embed the policy statements at the beginning of the policy or procedure documents.

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