If you’ve been in the business sphere for long enough, there are specific terms you’ve certainly heard thrown around. Two of those words are likely “procedure” and “process.” Those two words, “policy vs procedure” mean different things to different people, but if you have no idea what they mean in general, this article is here to help you figure it out.

Procedure vs Process

Read on to learn a bit about the difference between procedure and process, as well as some of the ways that they overlap and can even work with one another.

Figuring out the difference between these two things can seem unnecessary, but it’s the smallest things that can make a difference when it comes to making sure that your business runs smoothly.

When it comes to business, even the smallest things can trip you and your employees up when it comes to making sure that things are running smoothly. It can even be the smallest, most innocuous thing.

That’s why it’s good to make sure that everyone on your team is on the same page when it comes to things such as procedure and process.

But again, what do those things mean?

Funnily enough, even though “procedure” and “process” have two different definitions, this can still be a question that forces professionals to argue for hours on end and still not reach a conclusion.

The reason for this is because, when it comes to choosing the best way to do things revolving around quality and improvement, everyone has different ideas of the best way to get a particular thing done.

Although many people think that they know what a procedure or a process is, once you get into the nitty-gritty of the definition, you might learn that someone on the team or in a position of power might come up with an idea that doesn’t quite fit with your understanding of it.

So, what’s the difference?

Official Definition

Not to get too technical or pedantic for a moment, but according to the International Organization of Standardization (ISO), the difference between process and procedure was defined in the following way:

In layman’s terms, this means that a process revolves around what we do, and a procedure is about how we achieve/do something.

If you came into this article only looking for an easy description, there you have it. However, if you’re looking for more depth and nuance between the two terms, keep on reading.

When you start delving into the how’s, why’s, and what’s of these two easy definitions, it starts to get a bit confusing and concerning again. Time to dig a bit deeper.

Why Is Knowing the Difference Important?

When it comes to doing business, you of course want your project or organization to be successful. Successful businesses make more money and can continue working for years and years.

If running a business is your dream, you’re going to want to make sure that it goes as smoothly as possible. You’re going to want to make sure that you’re running your business in the “correct” way.

You’re also going to want to make sure that you’re doing everything “right” every time you’re doing anything. You’re not going to want or allow any mistakes, meaning that you need all the work that you and your team produce to be perfect every time.

This means that you want to create a process. When you have a process that turns inputs into outputs in the best and exact way every time, you can repeat it. It’s highlighted in that belief that “if you’ve done it once you can do it again.”

Thus, if you find a way to do something perfectly, you’re going to want to figure out what that perfect method is and make sure that you and your staff follow it to the letter. You’ll want to make sure that you and your staff know what to do and how to do it.

But of course, it’s impossible to be perfect every single time. You’ll find that there are times when the process that you’ve created to be perfect will run into stumbling blocks. Perhaps you’ll find that things aren’t going as well as you want them to, or perhaps there’s some element in the mix that you didn’t account for.

Missing even the smallest thing in your equation can knock your entire process off course.

Or it might not even be that you’ve come across an issue. It might be that you’ve found a more efficient way to handle a specific type of business.

When you come across these moments, you’ll find that you now have the chance, or are forced to, make changes to your process. Rather than being sad or worried, take this as an opportunity to revisit your process and figure out how to improve it. Is the situation that someone on your team has made a mistake?

Whatever the issue, how do you make sure that whatever happened to gum up the works doesn’t happen again?

It’s important to make sure that you’re figuring out what’s going on with your processes to fix them. The value in doing so is that you can have a greatly documented system that you can point at going forward.

Having these records will allow your business to improve and keep on improving. You’ll be able to look back at what you’ve done and pinpoint what works for you and your company and what doesn’t.

If you’re at all connected to business, or if you’re a human in this world of 2021, you have probably come up against the realization that the world is competitive. There’s no slacking off if you have specific dreams because there will always be someone out there who wants to do exactly what you want to do.

And if they have the drive, they can take that spot for you. So, if you want to make sure that you’re achieving your dreams and not allowing other people to take your spots, you need to figure out how to outperform those people who want to take your achievements.

Once you outperform your competitors, you can win greater support and greater attention for your business, which will give you more space to be better and more efficient in your life and your business.

On the flipside, if you find that your competitor is already doing what you’re doing, take that information and run with it. See what they’re doing and change the game so that you can carve out a spot specifically for you.

Continuous improvement is essential to the profitability of your business – and even its survival. It all starts with mapping out what your business does and how it does it.

Procedure vs. Process

Although both procedure and process are important to your business, it is still best that you have a good idea of what the two mean.

At the end of the day, it can take forever to truly try to define both definitions. The rest of this article will define them for you.

A process is a high-level operation that spans the organization. When it comes to process, it consists of various functions. A process also defines the step-by-step protocol or series of actions that are necessary to complete a task or objective.

This means that a process is how you define the steps that are required to make it to the end of a project or task successfully. The process outlines what is needed to achieve your end goal, no matter what that end goal may be. A process also includes information about which potential departments or resources within your company or business might be required to achieve success.

On the other hand, a procedure, while similar on the surface, is, in fact, quite different. A procedure is more detailed and basic, in that it defines the specific protocol that is required to accomplish the process.

This is to say that a process is made up of several procedures. When procedures are combined towards a common goal, they make up a process.

The procedure outlines the order of specific steps that are necessary to attain an end goal.

Because procedures are necessary for processes and because processes couldn’t exist without procedures, the two tend to become hand-in-hand when it comes to business practices. Successful systems and successful businesses have a good handle on processes and procedures and make sure to use both to their fullest extent.

When processes and procedures are combined correctly and effectively, they are able to be turned into a set of instructions that can be distilled to the whole team. Once the team has the instructions, they can work to reach a specific goal.

A process is cross-functional, defining what is done and by whom. It is typically defined as a flow chart or a decision tree, where one step logically leads to another step or activity.

Within the process, specific procedures are defined, outlining how a specific task is to be done and who performs that task. Included as part of the process are metrics for successful completion.

When it comes to business, all of the moving cogs come together to work together and achieve greatness. As with all things, the worth and efficiency of something large is in the sum of its parts.

Make sure that you understand the difference between process and procedure when it comes to your work and business so that you can make sure that all of your cogs are working correctly.