Why Isn’t Policy Drafting a Professional Competency?

When it comes to the skill of policy drafting, we have a serious training gap.

We can contrast our situation with the world of legislation. To disrupt their acquiring bad habits by being self-taught, the drafters of legislation receive training that is highly controlled. It seems to be common knowledge in that environment that the ability to craft good rules requires formal instruction.

No similar training in the policy world

We find little equivalent recognition in the policy world. Rule-making is most definitely a skill, and a complex one at that, if our goal is engagement and compliance rather than resistance. One might think that fact to be common knowledge, but too many organizations seem to task their Subject Matter Experts (SME) with writing policies, standards, and procedures without investing in training them for that activity.

The effects of that gap are far-reaching. Without the skills to distinguish good from bad policy wording, writers are often unwittingly perpetuating the very problems they are trying to overcome.

An Undervalued Skill

One of the results of the lack of formal recognition is that rule-making skills are significantly undervalued by many organizations. Drafting rules may not be rocket science, but it’s not child’s play, either; it requires combining a knowledge of drafting techniques with a number of related skills. But if there’s no recognition that it’s a skill, then there’s no motivation to direct training dollars in that direction.

The lack of recognition of the value of policy drafting skills in the corporate world is heavily influenced by the way those skills are regarded by the various associations that support domains of professional specialization, such as HR, Security, IT, and so on. Currently, “policy drafting” is conspicuously absent from the inventory of competencies accredited by many of those associations, despite the widespread need for those professionals to contribute to the policy drafting process at some point in their careers.

That lack of recognition shows up as a void in the range of education programs offered by the associations, leaving their professionals to fend for themselves.

A Missed Opportunity to Collaborate

One of the consequences of the failure to recognize policy drafting as a skill is that an opportunity for sharing information within an organization remains untapped.

When working with organizations, I consistently find that rule writers in one field of specialization do not perceive that they share anything in common with those from other fields. HR professionals drafting policies assume they have nothing in common with the IT professionals doing the same thing.

As a result of that disconnect, little exchange of knowledge occurs among the various SME within an organization. A technique with a proven success rate in the Finance branch is unlikely to be shared with the Security branch. This isolation often results in multiple parallel streams, thereby reinforcing the organizational silos that are such an impediment to a cohesive policy suite.

The truth is that all the policy drafters working in an organization can experience many of the same struggles. If they’re all working under the same policy framework, then they share the same hills and valleys when it comes to negotiating their organization’s governance and enforcement challenges. They all could benefit from coordinating their efforts.

All that needs to happen is a recognition of that commonality.

We can make changes

Ultimately, I think, it’s the professional associations that lead the way.

Those of us who draft policies can help rectify this situation by applying pressure on them to formally recognize policy drafting as a competency. Until it is under the spotlight as a topic worthy of professional training, it will continue to be overlooked in the skills inventory.