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    Policy 101

    Why updating the terms we use in The Salvation Army matters May 9, 2022 by Captain Mark Stanley
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    Feature

    According to Christianity Today, Leviticus is the least-favourite book of the Bible among its readers. It’s no wonder it didn’t make it into the top 10—it can be daunting to wade through verse after verse of rules and requirements. So as I began writing this article about Salvation Army operating policies and procedures (OPPs), I couldn’t help thinking, This is going to be tough! How do I talk about policy in a way that would be interesting and informative and not cause folks to nod off?

    I’ve found it helpful to think about OPPs as statements that protect you, me and The Salvation Army, and ensure that Salvation Army values are embedded in the ways we operate and make decisions. Think about the policies for driving: signaling when changing lanes, stopping at a red light and not going over the speed limit. There may be times when we don’t appreciate those policies, especially if we’re late for work, but we get it—they keep us safe and ensure we get to where we want to go without getting hurt or hurting someone else.

    Why Have Policies?

    Policies provide clear guidance and direction, reduce confusion and give us a greater understanding of the Army’s goals, vision and mission. Policies provide us with a course of action to ensure that The Salvation Army meets or exceeds the requirements of law, employment standards and human rights codes. Our policies reduce the possibility of The Salvation Army being seen as arbitrary or biased and show that the organization wants to be fair and consistent in how it operates, delivers service and provides ministry. A policy framework allows us to think ahead and anticipate how we should handle specific situations and issues so we’re prepared when those situations come along, and so we don’t have to discuss and debate what we should do every time the same issue surfaces.

    Policies and procedures reassure people that they will be treated fairly, consistently and with transparency, and clearly communicate that, on a particular issue, The Salvation Army will respond in a particular way. Policies and procedures tell staff, donors, clients, governments and the public that The Salvation Army can be trusted. Most times, when things go wrong, the problems can be traced back to a lack of adherence to the required policy and procedure.

    Healthy Boundaries

    You’ve probably heard the expression “good fences make good neighbours.” That’s a good analogy to describe how policies work. Like a fence, policies serve as a helpful boundary so we know where one individual’s or department’s scope ends and where another’s begins; they ensure we are all aware of what we can and cannot do.

    Our policies explain what our position and decision is for a particular issue, who the decision applies to and why we have taken that position and made that decision. Associated with most policies are related procedures, forms and supporting documents, which are where we explain when and how a policy is operationalized.

    Access and Availability

    When I moved into the policy office, one of my first tasks was to find an uncomplicated, quick way for people to find the information they needed. The first step began with the move of policies and manuals from Lotus Notes to a new database called SharePoint. Salvation Army staff can now search by word and by topic to find the policy and procedure needed in the new database. All of our policies have a table that tells a reader what department gives oversight to the policy, when the policy was created and a brief explanation about each revision. Additionally, all forms and related policies are embedded as live links so a user can go directly to the document they need with a click of their mouse.

    We know that every time a new policy launches, it can mean more work for our staff and our ministry units. An important function of the policy office is to bring co-ordination to the policy process to avoid placing onerous obligations on our people. That’s an area where we can always improve and it is part of the discussion whenever policies are being created or revised.

    The policy office also provides a single point of contact that staff can access for questions, concerns and explanations. Often the policy office can provide that information immediately and directly and, if not, can refer the person to the right department to get the answers and guidance needed.

    Listening to Feedback

    One of the best things about being in the policy office is the opportunity it has  given me to connect with people across the organization—from the front line to the chief secretary’s office. Each connection is an opportunity to help people get the information they need, provide clarification and explanation and to be a resource for information.

    It also means I can get feedback about a particular policy and hear concerns. That’s a really important piece of the policy process—ensuring we are always listening to those who work and rely on our policies every day. Listening means hearing a concern or question, ensuring the concern is understood, determining if and what appropriate action should be taken, such as revisiting a policy, and following up with the person who raised the concern.

    Terminology

    When Walt Disney was building his entertainment company, he wanted all of the staff, regardless of whether they served in a food concession, marched in a parade or worked in an office, to understand that they were part of creating the experience for every park visitor. So if you’re an employee at Disney World or Disneyland, you’re part of the story. To reinforce that every day, park staff are called “cast members” rather than employees.

    When we examined our Army policies and communications, we saw that we had a growing number of terms in use, such as staff, personnel, workers, users, officers, employees, etc. There’s nothing wrong with these terms, but they weren’t adequately or effectively describing who we are, which is a group of people united in mission to save souls, grow saints and serve suffering humanity.

    We engaged with people throughout the Army to help us find terminology that would unify and simplify our messaging and would then be used in policies and all communications within our territory. We landed on the term “mission partner” to describe those who provide Army services internally (employees, officers, volunteers, etc.) and “service partner” to describe those who provide service to the Army externally (vendors, suppliers, contractors, etc.).

    These terms have been approved for use by the territorial management board. The standardization of these terms does not restrict the use of specific terminology when appropriate. For example, communication only for divisional commanders would continue to be appropriately  addressed to “all divisional commanders.”

    Mission First

    Before I became an officer, I spent 10 years in the retail business. One of the things we taught store staff was that if a customer wasn’t happy with a store decision, you should never say, “Because it’s our policy.” It never made things better and almost always made things worse.

    We may not always agree with a policy, but it has to make sense, and we should understand why it is needed. Elizabeth Dole, who served in the U.S. Senate and as president of the American Red Cross, said, “The best policy is made when you are listening to the people who are going to be impacted.”

    The Salvation Army will always need good policies to guide us, and that requires us to put our mission at the forefront and listen to the people the policy will impact, our mission partners and those we serve each day.


    Who We Are

    Mission Partner:
    Describes all individuals who serve within (internal) The Salvation Army: officers, auxiliary-lieutenants, auxiliary-captains, cadets, employees (full-time, part-time, casual or on contract) and volunteers. This term is unifying and positively describes these individuals’ relationship to The Salvation Army.

    Service Partner:
    Describes all individuals and entities (external) who support and assist The Salvation Army to carry out its mission by providing services and goods to the organization, including contractors, businesses, third-party operators, suppliers, vendors and consultants.

    Officers (Commissioned and Non-Commissioned):
    Describes all individuals who serve with official ranks in The Salvation Army and includes officers, auxiliary-lieutenants, auxiliary-captains, cadets in appointments and retired officers.

    What Are Policies and Procedures?

    Policies:

    • Change infrequently
    • State who, what, why
    • State principles and express values

    Procedures:

    • Change and improve
    • State how and when
    • Describe process

    Illustration: bakhtiarzein/stock.Adobe.com

    Captain Mark Stanley is assistant to the territorial secretary for business in the Canada and Bermuda Territory.

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    Comment

    On Monday, May 16, 2022, Charles Fletcher said:

    Having clear and consistent OPP has made my 10+ years in the employ of the Salvation Army a wonderful and fulfilling experience. Thank you Mark.

    On Friday, May 13, 2022, Linda McNutt said:

    Thanks, Mark.

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