Topic 8.8: Policies and practice

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Other documents that may support the project plan include the more static policy guidelines of the performing organisation.

As we mentioned when discussing mandatory dependencies, policies are the business rules that act in the same way as the external regulatory or legislative constraints.

Policies stipulate, among other things, communications strategy, procurement strategy, staffing procedures, and change control processes.

Policies should also be regularly reviewed and updated

Within these policies, you might find direction on (for example) delegated authority or spending limits, agreed methods for conducting estimating or risk analysis, escalation processes (in other words, where to turn when things go wrong), and items like presentation style guides and glossaries of common terms.

Because these guidelines are usually specific to the performing organisation and the projects it delivers, we do not attempt to definitively list them all here.

That is not to say, however, that policies are not important – like any organisational process, they constrain what you can do in your project, but also offer you valuable guidance and support.

If you do not have clear project policies in your organisation, then try Googling standards to find what best suits your project context.

The use of standardised planning and reporting templates are obvious examples of organisational policy in practice.

Templates can be a great aid to projects.

They help guide more junior team members through the planning and reporting processes, ensuring that they capture vital information.

They are one way that organisations can educate staff on the importance and need for capturing certain information.

Templates can be valuable for more experienced project managers, too.

They provide structure and act as a checklist for data that needs to be captured, so it is less likely that something will get accidentally overlooked.

They also speed decision-making by presenting information in a consistent, relatable format.

Nevertheless, some processes just weren’t meant for templates.

If using a template adds time to a task because you are doing so much modifying and deleting while trying to shoehorn your project into the defined format, then you need to either seek advice or let it go and start from scratch.

It is also well documented that using the same format or template over and over can cause users of the output to miss important items that may need to be included.

In the same way, the ‘save-as’ syndrome – where new plans for a project are just an updated version of a similar project – not only can cause errors to be repeated, but can stagnate independent and creative thinking.

Therefore, although it is perfectly acceptable to continue policies from project-to-project within an organisation, the project planning templates you use should be both fit-for-purpose and judiciously applied.