Policies vs procedures

It is important for organizations to function in a systematic manner so as to obtain their goals and objectives. An organization that does not follow a system is unable to accomplish its goals, which is why it is so important for organizations to have policies and procedures in place.

From the outset, policies and procedures seem to be the same, i.e. they both appear to be guidelines. However, they are both quite distinct from one another. Policies are the rules and regulations that are developed in any organization and serve as its guiding principle. On the other hand, procedures are the steps defined by an organization to carry out its activities.

This article will describe the two terms in greater detail and explain the differences between the two.

Definitions and explanations

Policies

Policies are also referred to as mini-mission statements that have been developed by the top management, which function as a guide for the organization to take rapid and logical decisions pertaining to the everyday operational activities of the organization.

Through policies, organizations receive directions regarding the way different tasks are to be conducted. It not only shows a company how it should function, but also clarifies the stance of the company on critical issues.Policies also serve as general statements that define the limits for the managers for taking decisions; hence, they ensure that the organization exhibits consistency of performance.

Policies are of two kinds; the first are rules that are often used by organizations as employee policies. These rules provide guidelines for employees that they need to adhere to. The second are mini-mission statements that serve as the organizational mission. This mission indicates its objective and serves as a key performance indicator (KPI) to inform the users how the process is functioning.

Procedures

Procedures are the precise methods established by an organization for carrying out an activity, i.e. they refer to the sequence in which the different business functions to be fulfilled. Procedures define the course of action to be taken or the standard techniques that are to be followed to attain the mission of the organization. In fact, procedures complement and support the policies that are already in place.

Procedures refer to the protocols that are adopted within the organization. They are essentially the step-by-step methods that are followed to attain organizational policies and mission. After these techniques turn into a system that is followed throughout the organization, a cycle will be created in the company, through which the required outcomes will be attained.

Procedures are developed by organizations to prevent the overlapping of functions and ensure that activities are carried out in an organized manner. This leads to time saving, and the formation of a proper sequence of tasks that is going to decrease chaos. Procedures ensure that a program is successfully completed, and serve as a direction for the lower level employees within an organization.

Difference between policies and procedures

The important points of difference between policies and procedures are listed below:

1. Meaning

Policies are the rules and regulations that serve as a guiding principle for the organization while making decisions. On the other hand, procedures are the precise steps that are followed while carrying out an organization activity.

2. Nature

Policies are like rules that employees are supposed to follow, i.e., they are not very technical. On the other hand, procedures are more detailed and technical in nature.

3. Orientation

Policies are decision-oriented, whereas procedures are action-oriented.

4. Supportive of

Policies are more strategic as they are developed to support the organizational strategies and objectives. On the other hand, procedures are more tactical in nature and help in the implementation of the policies.

5. Formulated by

The top management develops the policy statements of an organization, whereas it is the leaders at the middle or lower level of an organization that formulate the step-by-step procedures.

6. Represent

The mission and objectives of the organization are represented by policies. Procedures, however, are developed to show the practical and step-by-step way in which these policies can be implemented.

7. Formal/informal

Policy is a formal guideline that is developed by organizations to manage and execute organizational operations. Procedures can either be formal or informal, based on the tasks of the department within the organization.

8. Related to

Policies are related to “what” the organization does, while procedures are related to “how” it is going to perform its operations.

9. Based on

Policies are developed from the objectives and missions of the organization, while procedures are developed on the basis of the organization’s policy statement

10 Adjustments

Policies cannot be modified easily and are usually developed for the long-term. On the other hand, it is possible to alter the procedures in accordance with the requirements, which are often made to go through continuous improvement.

Policies vs procedures – tabular comparison

A tabular comparison of policies and procedures is given below:

Policies vs Procedures
Meaning
A statement that includes the rules and principles that guide organizations and enable them to achieve their objectives The systematic way that has been specified by an organization for fulfilling its tasks or activities
Nature
Not technical Detailed and technical
Orientation
Decision oriented Action oriented
Supportive of
Strategic objectives Implementation of policies
Formulated by
Top management Middle and low level management
Represent
Mission of the organization Steps to implement the policies
Formal/informal
Formal Formal/informal, depending on the organizational tasks
Related to
“What” the organization does “How” it performs its operations
Based on
Organizational mission and objectives Policies of the organization
Adjustments
Not easy to modify Undergoes continuous improvement

Conclusion – policies vs procedures

It is important for organizations to have policies and procedures in place so as to provide direction to its employees while performing their tasks. These guidelines make sure that each employee responds to an event in the same way, thus ensuring consistency of performance.

The focus of both policies and procedures is on improving the efficiency of the organization. Despite the differences between them, the two are not contradictory to each other; rather they complement one another.

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