How many people working in corporate environments truly know and understand their organisation’s policies? How many would be able to easily refer to policy documentation to help them make decisions?
This challenge faces compliance and risk teams the world over. How do you get everyone in your organisation to engage with policy and make it a part of the way they do business?
Our client – a sovereign wealth fund – was facing this exact situation. As a financial institution, it was imperative that its teams adhere to the letter of its policies – on everything from bribery and corruption, through to sanctions and cyber security. Yet the documents were heavy, legalistic, repetitive and often lacking structure.
Another challenge was that many of the Fund’s employees and suppliers come from international backgrounds and do not have English as a first language.
A further challenge was the tight turn-around time required.
What we did
To start any project, we gen up on our client’s organisation – because we believe successful pieces of work can only be created in context. We familiarised ourselves with the aims, activities and culture of the Fund.
We then read through all of the documents, highlighting areas of overlap and repetition and getting a feel for the steps that would need to be taken to make them more navigable and useable.
Establishing a common structure
The policies had all been authored separately – sometimes by one individual and sometimes by many teams. This led to a lack of narrative structure – in other words, to text that sometimes meandered and looped back on itself, and that often did not flow.
From one document to the next – and sometimes from one paragraph to the next – structure, formatting, language and tone differed. This was making reading the documents and finding what you needed in them difficult.
We established a common structure for the documents, and a clear hierarchy for the information they contain. This was to make it super-easy for teams to get directly to the information they needed.
The organisation had no established or documented tone of voice. We decided the best approach was to convey conservative authority with the language – but to keep the sentences and paragraphs relatively short and easy to read.
Our client wanted the documents to be written in American English. In addition to this, we adopted an “International English” approach. This involves writing without idiom or anything even approaching vernacular. The challenge of doing this is that without really careful attention and crafting, text can become flat and boring. So we called on our huge experience in writing communications in International English to make the documents engaging and interesting.
Liaising with our client
Despite working in different time zones, we liaised regularly and productively with our client – and forged close relationships with their external consultants. This meant we could get answers to questions quickly and efficiently. It also meant we could quickly accommodate last-minute changes easily.
Effective project management
With almost 20 documents – totalling almost 100,000 words – being written closely together, tight project management was essential. Our PM worked closely with our writers to ensure we met – or got ahead of – all deadlines. We sent regular updates to our clients, reminding them of feedback cycles and adjusting timescales whenever they needed to.
Were there any snags?
Midway through the project, the USA updated its laws on sanctions. We helped our client to identify the areas of the policies affected and suggested updated wording. This was then cleared with their legal counsel – and still made the deadline.
The suite of 17 policy documents is now easy to access – and enjoyable, interesting and informative to read. Their tone is authoritative, yet approachable. Critically, they are understood, referred to and used on a daily basis to keep the organisation compliant in all the areas of the world where it operates and invests.