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.

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

Understanding the difference between process vs procedure will change the entire way you create and assign tasks to your team.

After all, 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. By putting in procedures to support your process, you’re giving your project the strong foundation it needs to get completed properly.

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 out to employees.

Types of processes

Processes are typically created to 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 tasks employees will need to complete to properly ship an order.

Each process can be defined within a unique workflow that is preset within a management system.

Mapping a Process

Sometimes, businesses must frequently repeat certain processes, such as the tasks necessary to create a certain outcome for every single social media project your team must complete.

Using a tool can allow you to simply duplicate the framework of that process, update who is responsible for which step in the procedure, and assign when each step is due.

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 all three of those goals, you are managing your projects effectively with a system that is built to ensure 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 play into a process called “feeding yourself,” there are always 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 that were designed to lead them through each task with clear goals in mind

Communicate standards and practices

As leaders in the workplace, you’re in charge of setting and modeling communication standards. Team members are responsible to find out what they are and follow them.

Having structure at every point along the way and communicating effectively to your employees, will allow your team to follow the procedures that were designed to lead them through each task with clear goals in mind.

To create effective procedures, you’ll want to focus on simplicity and clarity so your employees are able to clearly understand what is being expected from them.

Business Operating Model

With your procedures in place and your team on board, you have a new way of working. This becomes the default operating model for your business. 

Operating models are useful tools for helping managers understand how changes might impact the value other parts are tasked with delivering. A business operating model breaks the system into components, showing how it works. It helps different participants understand the whole and also leaders to identify problems that are being caused under performance. A business operating model is helpful for those making changes check that they have thought through all elements and that the whole will still work. It can help those transforming an operation coordinate all the different changes that need to happen.

Creating an Effective Procedure

Research and outline

Work smarter, not harder, and use your prior experience to inform how you set up new projects. In order 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 assessment for your new project.

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

Create and expand each step

Now that you’ve gotten your outline ready, it’s time to take those points and turn them into concrete instructions.

Make sure you’re keeping things straightforward and that everything is designed with simplicity in mind.

Be clear with your instructions and what needs to get done before moving onto the next task.

These steps should be high-quality so that they can be implemented time and time again, giving your team the stability they need to increase their efficiency.

Use an active voice for each step and make sure you aren’t too wordy (which may confuse the reader) nor are you too brief (which can leave too many questions).

As you go through each step, make sure this process is something that can serve your employees well time and time again.

Many projects will contain similar steps, giving you the ability to create a stable system that can be used by employees in many comparable projects.

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.

Get your team together to review each part of the process to see if every step is accurately assigned and described. We recommend to effectively workshop each procedure, this can prevent teams from getting caught in the crossfire of rapidly changing processes and contradictory instructions.

Another important step is to open the lines of communication. Let your teammates voice their opinions and even share their personal methods of getting something done quickly and properly to decide if the steps you put together are really the best ones to implement as a process or a procedure.

Foster business creativity within your team. Creativity in business is a way of thinking that inspires, challenges, and helps people to find innovative solutions and create opportunities out of problems. 

These plans should provide structure to support creativity when appropriate, and create an environment where innovation is guided through each step to create a great end product.

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 you just outlined so that your team can get the most out of it.

Despite often being criticized for being “overly simple,” Ikea purposefully decided that their instructions should be formatted as step-by-step drawings. Why? Because that was the best way to help their customers assemble their furniture without getting lost.

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

Difference Between Processes and Procedures

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

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

Now that you know the key differences between process vs procedure, you can then master the art of creating process and procedure templates successfully.

How can you combine them?

In order to execute on a project successfully, you’ll need to break down what exactly should be considered a process or procedure within that project.

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


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

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

Ask yourself: is this certain need something that’s a key part of the “bigger picture” – or is it a supporting task that builds into a bigger picture?

Organize everything as much as you can and make the most of the features that your workflow management tool gives you.

Setting up triggers and dependencies between your processes and procedures can help cut down on management time and 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 project milestones. Have these steps clearly set up within your workflow and encourage frequent status updates to ensure that everything continues to move smoothly.

During this step, you should also keep in mind that planning out deadlines appropriately is a huge determining factor in how successful the project can be. After all, things that are completed in a rush are usually executed with a lower quality than projects that were given the right amount of time to be completed within. 


Using a Workflow Tool to Track Progress

The final step to setting your project up for success is to use your project management tool as your own personal assistant. This will make managing your project easy.

Since you have already outlined each part of your process and procedure, you should be able to create tasks that are clearly linked to one another in the order that they must be completed in – and who must complete them.

There are time to make your teammates think and challenge themselves… and 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.


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.

In essence, the process you set up will dictate the procedures that must be put in place. These procedures allow the process to flourish or fail – with no in-between.

So, be smart with the implementation of processes vs procedures within each project and allow tools like Cirkus to make the work easier for everyone. Sign up for our free trial to see how we can help your team succeed.

By Stephanie Watkins

February 24, 2022


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