Can your policies and procedures pass the SMART test?

Can your policies and procedures pass the SMART test?

I have worked with hundreds of companies over the years to develop and refine policies and procedures. Documents I have worked on range from the mundane, such as employee code of conduct and office cleaning procedures to the complex and off-the-wall such as cargo flight schedule management and cannabis dispensary regulatory compliance plans.

I also, on more than one occasion, have had people ask for my opinion on their policies and procedures just to find that they have great SOP’s, well formatted and easy to follow. If you think you have good policies and procedures but just not sure, try applying the SMART test to them. If your documents are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely than chances are you are doing just fine.



Are your policies clear and written in language that anyone could understand? Some employee manuals and policies are written like a federal court case briefing, impossible for most people to understand and confusing.

You want to make sure that your procedures are specific enough that anyone could pick up the document and perform at least 80% of the job function being referenced. If you include TOO much detail, you run the risk of the document being too confusing for someone to understand or SO specific that it quickly becomes obsolete. The goal is to achieve a balance to provide direction on what an employee should be doing and how they are to go about but allow some flexibility so they don’t point to the procedure down the road and say “I was told to do it this way” or “this step was not included in the procedure so I didn’t do it.”

Lastly, make sure you clearly document WHO is responsible for each procedure or even each step in a procedures if multiple roles are involved.


Your procedures should clearly indicate measurable performance indicators that are time based, volume based or have specific dates. Often I have clients that want to define their KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) first and then build the procedures to support those KPI’s. A KPI is a measurable value that helps an organization understand how effectively it is achieving its key business objectives. KPIs are typically used to track progress towards specific goals, and they can be used to evaluate performance at all levels of an organization.

KPIs can be used in a variety of areas, such as finance, marketing, customer service, operations, and human resources. Examples of KPIs might include revenue growth, customer satisfaction ratings, employee productivity, or website traffic.

KPIs are important because they help organizations identify areas where they are doing well and areas where they need to improve. By tracking KPIs over time, organizations can make data-driven decisions that help them optimize their performance and achieve their strategic objectives.

I recommend that clients first document what they are actually doing THEN review the procedures to identify points which CAN be measured. From there, goals should be developed for each employee aligning to the KPI’s and assurance that those KPI’s are constantly measured and reported on to everyone in the company.


Are your policies and procedures realistic? While procedures can be designed to make a process more efficient, you should start with how the tasks are performed today and then make incremental adjustments. This should be done in collaboration with subject matter experts such as the person who is performing the task today or their supervisor. Involving employees closer to the process you are trying to document can ensure you accurately capture the processes involved and avoid mistakes such as timing issues, circular references or incorrect hand offs.


This is my favorite one as it addressed just how much detail you should include in your policies and procedures. For example, if you have a medical practice, your procedure may have a step which states “put on non-latex gloves before examination the patient.” This is relevant, quick, asy to understand and clear. That said, should you include additional steps to explain HOW to put on the gloves such as:

1.      Locate the box of gloves located on the counter in the far left hand corner of the room.

2.      Identify your size (small, medium, large)and take one glove at a time out of the appropriate box.

3.      In full view of the patient, pinch the bottom rim of the glove between your index finger and thumb and slowly slide your hand into the opening, make sure that your fingers slide into the appropriate glove finger.

4.      Adjust the glove by pulling down on the rim until your fingers fill out the glove so your fingers are in contact with the inside tip of the glove.

5.      Repeat these steps with a glove for the other hand.

While the extreme detail is technically relevant, it is not necessary to put in that level of detail. This is a waste of time and resources to document and maintain these steps that will likely be read once and never again.


Where most leaders fall down on documenting procedures is being clear about when tasks need to be done and how much time it should take. Examples of language that should be included to ensure your procedures are timely include:

·        Invoices are processed by the bookkeeper every Monday morning.

·        Performance appraisals must be completed and discussed with each employee by the last day of each quarter.

·        Procedures must be reviewed by the owner and renewed on an annual basis.


A few extra tips to help you develop the most useful and effective documents:

1. Make sure to have a linkable table of contents. Both MSWord and Gdocs have automatic TOC features that will auto-update with page numbers and links. Learn how to use these.

2. A bunch of words on pages may be good for some but certainly not everyone. Add visual workflows, screenshots of systems or pictures of equipment where helpful.

3. When training someone how to use software or an application, consider using a screen recording product such as Loom to record your screen and voice as you show AND explain how to perform an action. You can then put links or QR codes in the procedures to take your audience to the training videos. I explain this in more detail in the article “How to create and embed QR codes”

In conclusion, your policies and procedures don’t have to be perfect to be effective and following these simple guidelines can help to ensure that your SOP’s are SMART in more ways than one and that they help your business Survive and Thrive.


If you have questions about policies, procedures or business continuity planning, feel free to contact me at .

Related Posts