Process vs procedure: What’s the difference

Creating processes and procedures will help improve your work team's efficiency

There’s a lot that goes into project management and being able to set your team up for success. Understanding the difference between process vs procedure will change the entire way you create and assign tasks to your team.

Using a project management tool can greatly reduce the implementation and monitoring time you’ll need to take out of your schedule. However, you always want to have the basics down before moving onto a new project.

It is key to understand your project well enough to outline what phases your team needs to successfully complete their required parts.

Simply put, procedures are the steps that construct the process that a project requires.

Without a process, there’s no clear understanding of how to move your project from start to finish. Procedures that support your process give your project a strong foundation.

Knowing the difference between process vs procedure

There’s a lot of terminologies that exists in the management world.

Buzz phrases tend to frequently come and go, but the concepts of processes and procedures have remained stable throughout the years. This is because of how effective they are in helping teams in every industry be successful.

Before we get into the key differences between process vs procedure, let’s first break down what they mean.

Using that knowledge, you can then master the art of creating process and procedure templates successfully.

People discussing the differences between process vs procedure

What is a process?

Studies show that having a set structure can help employees better execute on their plans.

A mindful management team will design processes for all of their main departments and needs before assigning them.

Processes are typically an outline and create an effective roadmap to your most common and important tasks.

These could be anything from creating a campaign for a client to breaking down what task an employee needs to complete to properly ship an order.

Using a tool can allow you to simply duplicate the process framework, update who is responsible and assign due dates.

The goal of each and every process you create is to:

  • Save time
  • Reduce Errors
  • Support Your Team

By implementing a process that aims to accomplish these goals, you are managing your projects effectively for success.

What is a procedure?

In order to make a process work properly, you’re going to need procedures that support that process.

Just like there are steps to making a sandwich, which plays into a process called “feeding yourself.” There are also steps that go into completing a project – these are your individual procedures.

Having structure at every point along the way will allow your employees to follow procedures with clear goals in mind.

To create effective procedures, you’ll want to focus on simplicity and clarity.

Creating an effective procedure

Make sure that you accurately describe the tasks when preparing an important procedure.

This gives your team the best chance of creating a great piece of work in the minimal amount of time.

1. Research and outline

Work smarter, not harder, and use your prior experience to inform how you set up new projects. To create a great process and helpful procedures, you’ll want to do your research.

Look back at similar projects that your team has completed in the past. Think about what steps the team went through to create the final product, and even conduct a risk management analysis.

Every step you take during this research and outlining phase will directly impact how well your team can execute.

2. Create and expand each step

Your outline is ready and it’s time to take those points and turn them into concrete instructions.

Keep things straightforward and everything designed with simplicity in mind.

Be clear with your instructions and what must be complete before moving onto the next task.

Steps should be easy to follow so that they are easy to use in the future. This will give your team the stability they need to increase their efficiency.

Use active voice for each step and make sure you aren’t too wordy, nor are you too brief.

As you go through each step, make sure this process is something that can consistently assist your employees.

3. Review and update

Once you have a complete draft of each step that will go into your project’s processes and procedures, it’s time to review.

Gather your team to review each part of the process to see if it is accurate. Evaluating each procedure can prevent teams from experiencing confusion later down the line.

Open the lines of communication.

Let teammates voice their opinions and share their personal strategies.

This will help you decide if the steps you put together are really the best ones to implement.

Remember, you don’t want these processes and procedures to kill creativity within your team.

These plans should provide structure to support creativity when appropriate. An environment that fosters innovation throughout its steps is ideal.

4. Decide the design and presentation of your procedure

Many people are visual learners, which is why it’s so important to consider how to best demonstrate the procedure.

Despite often being criticized for being “overly simple,” IKEA purposefully makes their instructions as step-by-step drawings.

This the best way to help their customers assemble their furniture without getting lost.

Make sure you’re doing the same with all your procedures.

Decide whether your teammates would do best with a workflow chart, a process template, a step-by-step written guide, or even triggered tasks to guide them along the way.

Two people designing effective processes and procedures

How to differentiate parts of your project and set it up for success

Break down what should be considered a process or procedure. This will help successfully complete your project.

By differentiating, you’ll be able to effectively manage everyone’s time through clear and well-planned tasks.


Before starting any project, you’ll want to conduct an analysis that separates the different aspects of your project into processes. This will help produce the outcome you want and what procedures you need to implement to make them happen.

The important part of this analysis is to decide what is a process and what procedures are a part of it.

Ask yourself if this certain need is a key part of the “bigger picture” – or if it is a supporting task that builds into a bigger picture.

Organize everything you can and make the most of the features that your workflow management tools.

Setting up triggers and dependencies between your processes and procedures can help cut down on management time. It will also give your team a clear idea of what they need to accomplish and who they should be collaborating with.

Delegate to the right people

Once your individual processes and procedures are finalized and properly organized, it’s time to delegate.

Make sure that everyone who is involved in the process understands their responsibilities and milestones. Have these steps clearly set up within your workflow. While encouraging frequent status updates to ensure that everything continues to move smoothly.

You should also keep in mind that planning out deadlines appropriately is a huge determining factor in how successful the project can be.

When you complete things in a rush, they usually are of lower quality. Give you team sufficient time to do their job right.

Two people that have been delegated a task of a procedure

Using a workflow tool to track progress

The final step to setting your project up for success is to use a project management tool as your own personal assistant.

Sometimes it’s good to make your teammates think and challenge themselves… but there are times when you want to make things as easy as possible.

When it comes to knowing what to do to complete a project, your goal should always be to make things easy for your team.

Therefore, knowing the key differences between process vs procedure is going to be a necessity.

Process vs. Procedure: A quick recap

We want you to think of a process as the “bigger picture” that creates your desired outcome.

Your process is the overall workflow that needs to happen in order to make your project work well.

The process dictates the procedures and the procedure allows the process to flourish or fail.

By Stephanie Watkins

May 8, 2018


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