Main Differences Between Policy and Procedure

Difference Between Policy and Procedure

The key factor that leads to success in an organization is developing a strong culture. For successful integration of culture between the organization and its employees, a set of policies and procedures must be decided upon.

And the communication of these procedures and policies will determine how well the internal members are in tune with the vision of the organization.

As there is a fine line between the two terms, it can be pretty difficult to tell them apart. With that being said, knowing the difference between policy and procedure is important for the long-term growth of a business.


Policy Vs. Procedure: An Overview

While the differences are important, you need to first be clear of the definition of both terms. Once you can define the terms, understanding the differences becomes easier.

What Is a Policy?

What Is a Policy

Policies are essentially the guidelines of an organization. Other than being a set of rules, they help the internal members of the organization to make sound and ethical decisions.

The nature of a set of policies is such that, it will guide your day-to-day business operations. It also communicates the organizational culture with the workforce by providing a set of behavioral rules and regulations.

And the reason why we stress the importance of lining up effective policies is that it provides the business with success measurement tools. By clearly stating the purpose that lies with each task, people within the organization can see the overarching vision.

As a result, every member is tied together, working towards a combined vision to reach the goals of the company.

To create the most effective list of policies, here are some pointers you can follow;

  • Use simple language to make it clear to all members
  • Elaborate on the rule and its purpose, instead of how to achieve it
  • Should be available to all members of the organization
  • Each policy should be in-line with all the others on the list
  • Establish them based on past experience

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What Is a Procedure?

What Is a Procedure

Unlike policies, procedures are less flexible and provide you with a set of directions to reach the end goal. With procedures, you know where to begin. It will guide you through a series of steps that must be followed to bring about the desired outcome.

In essence, a set of procedures is a list of tasks that need to be sequentially performed, with little or no room for variation. We need to have various sets of procedures listed for each task so that they can be efficiently performed.

Without proper lining up of tasks, the employees would end up wasting too much time by going through a trial-and-error process.

Before constructing an operating procedure for any task, it must be first carried out in the most effective manner. Afterward, backtracking your steps will allow you to successfully lay down the steps through which the desired outcome can be achieved.

Below are some pointers that will aid you in making effective operating procedures;

  • List down all processes that need to be documented
  • Choose a common template for all procedures
  • Determine the start and endpoint
  • Breakdown each task with subtasks if needed
  • Be clear with your language
  • Keep each task in-line with the set of policies


Main Differences Between Policy and Procedure

Now that you are clear about the definitions of each term, we can finally move on to stating the key differences between them.

Updating Frequency

When it comes to policies, they are broader; and so, they rarely need to be updated. Procedures, on the other hand, may require frequent updating. When policies are established, they are made to tackle the long-term objectives and aims of the organization, which rarely need changing.

As procedures are breakdowns of tasks that help you reach an end goal, different people can innovate new and efficient ways to bring the same outcome. In that case, the procedure would need to be updated, because the company will always seek to get a job done in the most efficient way possible.



Policies do not follow a specific sequence, as they don’t breakdown actions that need to be followed. Hence, the policies are bundled together based on the topic they are stressing on.

For example, all behavioral policies will go under the code of conduct section, but any policy related to paid leaves will go under the employee-leave section.

Steps within the procedure of one task need to follow a certain sequence that brings about maximum productivity and efficiency. If not followed, the company will be at a loss.


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Relation to Company Goals

As we have mentioned above, policies are focused on the long-term goals of the company. It does not tell us how to reach those goals, but instead, directly guides our journey towards them.

Procedures are indirectly related to the long-term goals. They are considered to be a short-term approach, as the goals are being broken down into sub-goals which makes them easier to target.


Writing Style

With procedures, the writing style must be descriptive with emphasis on the use of simple language. The personnel that will use the procedure to carry out tasks should be able to understand the documents easily. Therefore, the managers who design the procedures need to be as detailed and instructional as possible.

In contrast, policies are not as detailed or descriptive in nature. They highlight the broader concepts and guide the decision-making process. As procedures are detailed, there is less space for flexibility, but that is not the case with policies.


Final Words

Both policies and procedures play a vital role in strengthening the base of an organization. With the main aim of achieving both long and short-term goals, policies and procedures must be established with much care.

We hope the article has helped you understand the difference between policy and procedure clearly enough to formulate your own.

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