Over the weekend, I attended a significant decade birthday for a longstanding friend. What a fun night! I caught up with people from my past, reminiscing about the way we used to be and reflecting on how much we’d all changed. One of the activities organised on the evening was looking at the impact of music over our lifetime. Our group listened to a song which I had not heard in many years, and as we took int the words, I reflected on how much has changed for me since the early 1990s. I could see similar reflections happening from my friends.

Songs can have so much meaning for different stages of our life and hearing them again can bring memories of those times instantly to mind. My friend’s daughter read out the words of a song that her mother had sent to her in a letter when she was ‘a recalcitrant teenager’ decades ago. It was apparent that the words from that song written so long ago still had an impact on her. When she finished reading the letter, she said that while her thoughts and beliefs had evolved since her teenage years, the words still resonated very powerfully for her now.

Driving home from this party, I thought about the many times I have talked with staff during onsite audits and assessments about their reflections on policies and procedures over time. In some cases, people are re-reading the content for the first time in perhaps years while I’m undertaking the assessment. The discussions invariably refer to the organisation’s current practices, not quite what is written in the procedures. When this happens, people often express embarrassment about what they’re reading and comprehending and wonder why they thought their understanding of processes sometimes written years ago would be the same as they are reading now.

In other situations, organisations may regularly review their policies and procedures, seeking input from other staff or specialists, but may then look at the content differently when they gain a different perspective, giving something for people to consider.

From what I can see, we continue to evolve our thinking and comprehension of what we do all the time. However, this may be happening faster than what the procedures are expecting of us.

Sometimes it is only when wholly impartial and objective eyes are reading the content and asking different questions that the opportunity for the next level of clarity can occur. I think we just need to be open to alternative perceptions, even when we may be quite attached to what we have in place in writing!

Thinking ahead:

  1. Have you experienced situations where you realised your perspectives have changed and evolved? What did it feel like?
  2. What strategies do you have in place to review existing procedures? How do you manage completely different points of view about the systems that are in place?
  3. How often do you and your team members contribute to the reviews of policies and procedures that apply to their work? Do they genuinely follow the processes expected of them?