What’s the difference between a policy, process and procedure?

Knowledge Centre

Mar 28, 2019 | Process | 4 comments

This article is part of our Process 101 guide.

Seems like a simple question, right? And yet debating terminology is a recurring issue in our strategy meetings. We can easily decide on the functionality to create within our platform, but deciding whether it’s policy, process or procedure is a whole other challenge.

So, policy, process and procedure…

Let’s start with a boring dictionary definition:

  • Policy: “a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by an organisation or individual.”
  • Process: “a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.”
  • Procedure: “an established or official way of doing something.”

Clear? Thought not. To provide that all-important clarity we probably need the guidance of an ‘expert’ in this space. Someone that, like us, has spent hours debating the difference between a task and a process.

Here’s what a couple of our competitors say:

  • Policy: “the guidelines or laws that drive the processes/procedures”
  • Process: “a high level view”
  • Procedure: “providing the detail”

It’s brief and simple, but still not really clear. So what about this:

  • Policy: “the overall guidelines”
  • Process: “the flows of activity”
  • Procedure: “the detailed instructions of steps”

Nice! Clear, succinct…but I fear it’s still not quite right.

The ultimate definition of a policy, process and procedure

Brace yourself…

It doesn’t matter.

That’s right. It really doesn’t matter what policy, process and procedure means because ultimately they all mean the same thing – they are the ‘rules’ by which we run our businesses.

And just as your customer onboarding process is different to my customer onboarding process, is different to every other company’s customer onboarding process, the words we use to describe the way our businesses operate are different.

Ultimately, all that matters is that things (whatever you call them) are done the same way, every time, by everyone. And that’s exactly what Process Bliss does…

Need to centralise and optimize business process?
Get it right, every time.
Need to centralise and optimize business process?

How Process Bliss manages your policies, processes and procedures

Process Bliss manages your policies, processes and procedures in three simple ways:

1. Allows you to map processes

Process Bliss lets you document the way your organisation operates. Through process templates you can record all the necessary steps, attaching useful information and relevant documentation.

2. Create checklists

Every time your process template is used, users are automatically notified that they need to do something. And when complete their tasks, they simply tick it off.

3. Track progress

Through the simple reports you can see every time a template has been used, if it was completed as you intended, or whether users encountered any issues.

Need a better way to track team tasks and workflow?
Get it right, every time.
Need a better way to track team tasks and workflow?


  1. Debbie

    A policy is the rules we are expected to abide by, procedures are what the company should take if the employee fails to adhere to the policy?

    • Process Bliss

      Hi Debbie, thanks for getting in touch. We see the policy as being the rules and expectations around a particular thing. For example a working from home policy could outline what your working environment should consist of, how you should take regular breaks and so on. A procedure is a set of steps explaining how to do an activity, for example a procedure to purchase office equipment for a new employee. You might have a disciplinary or grievance procedure that links to one or more policies, but usually procedures are more general.

      A policy is the what, procedures are the how. Hope that helps!

  2. Agnes

    give me procedures that guide the policy making process

    • Process Bliss

      Hi Agnes. The policies for your business will be about what you’d like to happen in certain scenarios, for example a policy for how overtime is calculated, or a policy for what acceptable use of company equipment looks like. We deal more with the process side which deals with the how, for example how an employee would record their overtime. We have a list of processes here: https://processbliss.com/25-processes-every-business-needs/ For policies, you may like to refer to a HR resource in your country for what is required by law.


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