The first type of document, the fabric documents, make up the backbone of OSTA-AECO as a legal entity. These are the documents that are required, either by legislation or statute, based on the type of organization we are (a corporate nonprofit, since you asked).
The second type of document is the policy document. A policy document is a core corporate governance document containing guiding principles used to set direction within OSTA-AECO. It can be a course of action to guide and influence decisions. It should be used as a guide to decision-making under a given set of circumstances within the framework of objectives, goals and management philosophies as determined by strategic plans or other management documents.
Policies specify the “what” and “why”: what is the strategic direction prescribed by the policy, and why is OSTA-AECO committed to the objectives outlined therein? Policies should be drafted so as to reflect statutory, regulatory, and legislative requirements, and should align with and inform the OSTA-AECO Strategic Plan. OSTA-AECO policy documents provide the framework within which procedures are developed.
A procedure document is a core corporate governance document comprising a particular way of accomplishing something. It’s designed as a series of steps to be followed as a consistent and repetitive approach or cycle to accomplish an end result.
A procedure answers the questions “how”, “when”, “who”, and explicitly “what”: how will the policy be operationalized, when and how often must the prescribed steps be taken, who shall be responsible for implementation and oversight, and what specific actions are required to comply with the policy goal.
The completed procedure document contains a set of established methods for conducting business within OSTA-AECO, and is a useful document for training, process auditing, process improvement, and compliance initiatives.
Each policy and procedure document has an owner. The policy owner or procedure owner (or just owner) is the individual accountable for ensuring that the policy or procedure document is updated at its appropriate review date.
Each policy and procedure must also have one or more approving bodies. Approving bodies are the groups of people that are required to ratify the document before it can take effect, whether at initial creation or at its review date.
Review dates and cadence
Each policy and procedure document must be assigned a review date. The review date is the date by which the policy or procedure document must commence review.
The document’s review cadence is set by the document creator and indicates the minimum frequency with which the document needs to be reviewed.
Policy documents need to be reviewed at least once every three (3) years, in accordance with the review date and cadence defined on the policy document itself. If no review date exists (e.g., in the case of legacy policy documents), then GovComm should review the policy as soon as possible and assign a review date and cadence during the course of the review.
Procedure documents should be reviewed frequently by the procedure owner (or designate) to ensure that they continually provide necessary operational guidance and meet the needs of the organization. At a minimum, procedure documents should be reviewed biennially—once every two (2) years.
Gating and controls
Now that you know about the types of governing documents and their comprising components, you should probably know how we ensure that they’re reviewed and receive the appropriate amount of scrutiny by the appropriate parties.
Policy and procedure documents are generally created by members of GovComm, but anybody within the organization is able to draft a document if they see a gap in the corpus of governance documents.
Once a policy or procedure document has been drafted, the document creator submits their draft to GovComm for review. Part of GovComm’s review includes a community consultation process to ensure that the parties impacted by the document (or its changes) have an opportunity to provide feedback and express any concerns they may have.
If GovComm is satisfied with the status of the document during its review, the document then progresses to the ratification stage, where the approving bodies must provide their own approvals. Once the documents are approved by the approving bodies, the policy or procedure document takes effect.
Not all types of documents or changes need to be ratified by the approving bodies. The Executive Council and Board of Directors have delegated their approval authorities to GovComm in some specific cases, including:
when making governance changes necessary to maintain the integrity of OSTA-AECO’s corporate governing documents, including the administration and overall taxonomy of said documents;
when modifying existing corporate policies, procedures, and terms of reference documents;
when removing unnecessary or repetitive language in existing policies; and
when repealing redundant or unnecessary policies altogether.