There are many differences between a policy, process, procedure, SOP, or work instruction. Here we explain the differences between policies, procedures, processes, and how each are used in a business setting.
The difference between processes and procedures are not many. A processes define key areas of a business, while a procedure describes those process elements with more information adding responsibilities, objectives, and methods. Used together, they complement each other playing different roles in defining your operating business model.
A process is the conversion of an input into an output, which becomes the standard for performing a task. To create consistency, all employees should follow a standard process, which is typically documented in a procedure.
A “procedure” is a term that defines a series of steps that achieve a planned result. Procedures are also called Standard Operating Procedure, (SOP), good manufacturing practice (GMP), or a best practice. Procedures are frequently used to demonstrate compliance, training, and retain important organizational knowledge to prevent errors. A process can be described by as few as one procedure, but more complex processes can have many procedures.
Writing Standard Operating Procedures, also known as an SOP, allows you to standardize your processes. Start with an SOP template to provide everyone with a common format and a great start saving people a lot of time in selecting fonts, margins, and other common structural elements.
Procedures are not the same as work instructions. Procedures describe a process, while work instructions are used to provide greater detail when performing the transaction steps.
A policy is an organizing principle that can represent rules to guide employees (employee policies) or a mission statement used to guide a process or procedure. Management sets policy to provide direction and guide decision making by employees.
Policies are different than procedures in that they provide the direction (what we are doing), while the procedures provide the general process details (how we do it it) and then the work instructions provide the most detail (how we literally do it). The level of detail is driven by the complexity of the process your are trying to describe.
Anyone writing policies and procedures that would like some free examples of what policies and procedures look like can download many free sample policies and procedures templates available in Microsoft Word or PDF.