Numbering System For Policies and Procedures

Nancy B. Alston

Numbering policy and procedure documents can be easy or hard depending on how you finally decide on the numbering format. I use simple numbering as you’ll see below but there are reasons for having a more complicated numbering system. I will give you both options and you can decide.

Option 1: Simple system. First of all, I like to do a four or five digit numbering system for all policies and procedures. In other words, I don’t use a separate numbers for policies and then another for procedures. Also, I like to use a sequential numbering starting from a large number like 1000 or 10000. For example, if I have a Human Resources policy on relocation, a second procedure on Purchase Requisitions, and a third policy on Forms Management, then the numbering system, based on a four-digits, would be:

  1. 1000 – Relocation Policy
  2. 1001 – Purchase Requisition Procedure
  3. 1002 – Forms Management

In some companies, I have given out ranges like 1000 to 1200 for Corporate Policies and Procedures and 1201 to 1500 for Human Resources and so on. The problem with ranges is that there is a possibility of a department running of out numbers, which by the way, happened one time to me and it has never happened again. 

Option 2: Some policies and procedures writers use a more complex system to try and pinpoint specific areas within departments. For example, a company might use a format such as:

MF-RC-PE-1001 to stand for the first procedure in the Receiving Department within the Manufacturing Department. A policy might have the number MF-RC-PL-1002 where PL stands for policy. You get the picture.

I have to admit that I did use this numbering format early in my career but it’s so hard to maintain. And forget ever maintaining it when the departments change their name. For example, when Office Services becomes Administrative Services or when Engineering becomes Research and Development or when Office of the President becomes Corporate Offices. When this happens, your entire numbering system would have to change.

Summary: I prefer the four or five number numbering system due to its simplicity. I find the second option as cumbersome but yet some companies might find good reason to use it. The system you select is your choice but all I recommend is that you do some research as to how it will hold up over time in your company environment.

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