Policy and Procedure Flow Chart

A Company Model for Developing Policies and Procedures

Christine L. Peterson, CPP, ISP Compliance, Corporate Compliance, Security Policy and Procedure Development, Security Program Development


While attending the NCMS Carolinas Chapter meeting at Cisco Systems recently, I saw a presentation by Mark Whitteker, MSIA, CISSP, ISP. Mark comes out of the IT security world, so most of his presentation focused on IT security. He also presented a segment on Building a Comprehensive Security Architecture Framework that might benefit all of us. Mark shared with the group a pragmatic approach to creating and updating policies and procedures that any organization could use. When implemented, this process creates a customizable framework that will allow organizations the stability to prosper.

In general, policies establish the strategic objectives and priorities of an organization. They set the standards and expectation for the population. From a security perspective, they are a powerful tool because they identify roles and responsibilities and provide for accountability. Policies establish responsibilities and expectations for every population within an organization. This should include all employees, contractors, visitors, and any other personnel on site. As is demonstrated in Mark’s flow chart below, procedures are developed much later in the process. Procedures are the detailed implementation instructions for individuals to carry out the policies. They are often presented as forms or as lists of steps to be taken.

policies and procedures flow chart
Why is this so important from a security perspective? All security events are caused by people who intentionally do something to obtain, injure, or destroy an asset, or unintentionally do something due to lack of knowledge or understanding. Therefore, unless an organization can protect all of their assets (human, capital, and reputation) from the nefarious or inadvertent actions of others – at all times – they need a security program that deters, detects, and defends business assets every day, all the time. Most businesses are not Fort Knox (which, by the way, is not immune from security events). Security-related policies and procedures are a critical tool that businesses can use to defend against the human threat.

Mark’s flow chart provides a systematic approach to the development of policies and procedures. Mark bases his approach on industry standards in a manner that professionals can apply company-wide.

In any organization that is evaluating their policies or putting policies in place, they should start with the industry standards for the area covered by the policy. Areas such as lighting, egress, the protections of trade secrets, IT security, and the protection of classified and/or personal information are just some of the areas where security industry standards are available.

In addition to the industry standards, there are security best practices that play an important role in any company’s security program. These may be industry specific or provide general guidance. In the absence of standards, companies will and are judged based on recognized best practices. Premises liability is a prime example of where this would apply.

An organization’s ability to defend itself against litigation is incumbent in its ability to establish that a security program was in place to respond to threats that they were aware of or should have been aware of. Similarly if an organization has to defend itself from a compliance violation or establish that they are due damages in a loss of trade secrets, it is incumbent on the organization to be able to demonstrate the protective measures that were in place to protect that information. In all cases security-related policies will be a key component of the security program.

There are many sources for security related standards and best practices. Organizations such as ASIS International, the International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS), or National Classification Management Society (NCMS), are good starting points for this kind of information.

Policies are the guidance necessary to protect your organization’s assets. When establishing those guidelines, look to industry standards and best practices for a general framework. Policies should be high-level and solution agnostic in order to minimize the need to revisit them as technology changes. Policy standards will include those details.

Policy Standards are the specific technical implementation requirements established within the policies. Within the policies these should be hyperlinks or references to policy standard documents, not detailed within the policy itself. This enables an organization to modify or update the standards as technology advances without requiring policy changes with resulting review and approval by senior management.

Policy Implementation is about communication (who, what, when, where). Considerations include:

  • Who does this policy apply to?
  • What do you want them to do?
  • When does it apply?
  • How and when will the population be trained?
  • When and where will the population get additional awareness reinforcement?

Procedures are the guidance that individuals will need to comply with the policy. It provides detailed, step-by-step instructions users must follow in order to implement controls according to the latest standards.

Services provide the population with information about the support services that are available to them and are there to support their efforts. In this case we are referring to security-related services, but you could also apply this to other areas of the business. Consider this on the front end for better communication. Hopefully it will provide the professionals responsible for implementing the policy and procedures with the resources they need to provide the population with the tools and support they need to comply.

Measuring Success brings the process full circle and puts in place a system of continuous quality control and improvement. Things change; populations change; and industry standards and best practices change. There should be a process to measure success and allow the organization to adapt.

In the world of security, the best that any organization can hope for is that they have the internal and external controls in place to divert persons with nefarious intent. It’s kind of like termites – if we can’t eliminate them, let’s make it so uncomfortable that they move somewhere else.


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