Difference between policy, process and procedure

Kat Birett
Marketing Manager

LinkedIn Profile

Have you ever wondered what the difference between a process, a policy, and a procedure is? Well, if you have, you’re not alone. The truth is, like most business terms – they're often used interchangeably, which is confusing! I’ve often sat in rooms where definitions of policy, process and procedure are debated. While someone will reference ISO 9000 definitions, while another will argue that they’re all the same thing with different names. If you’ve been privy to these types of debates, or even asked the questions yourself, then this blog is for you. Here are a few short definitions to help you put these questions to rest. 


According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a policy is "a set of ideas or a plan of what to do in particular situations that has been agreed to officially by a group of people, a business organisation, a government, or a political party."

Common examples include insurance policies and company policies. These often feel like they're set in stone. When there are changes, they're usually approved by a committee, senior individual and typically version controlled.


Let's go with Britannica this time. They define a process as "a series of actions that produce something or that lead to a particular result."

When I think of 'process', I think about the 'aging process' and the natural (hopefully gradual) change that begins in adulthood. Maybe it has to do with what happens?


Collins defines procedure as a “way of doing something, especially the usual or correct way.”

I like to think of this as instructions to be followed to carry out a task. I tend to ask myself if there is an established or official sequence of actions that needs to be taken. Maybe it’s how we do something?

Confused Yet?

I’m feeling comfortable with policies, but if you’re like me and your what’s start to look like how’s and vice versa - things start to get confusing. So, here are some good ‘rules of thumb’ takeaways for ‘process’ and ‘procedure’:
• Process is made up of several activities whilst procedures formalise the way we do things
• Process is a set of activities that transform inputs into outputs whilst procedure is how you carry out a process

Even some examples are thrown into the mix. Like how to make a cake:
• Process is the action of ‘baking’ a cake
• Procedure is the recipe on how to

Am I right to think, whatever you choose to call it, you need it?

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