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Difference Between Policy, Procedure, Work Instructions

Difference Between Policy, Procedure, Work Instructions
When writing processes, policies, procedures, and work instructions, it is critical to understand the definitions and differences for clear communication and direction to your employees. 

Many of our customers have told us that they know regulators and auditors hate to see policy mixed with the procedure in company procedures manuals and corporate training material, but they are unsure about how to separate them.                                     

Here are some definitions to help clarify what is the difference between a policy, process, procedure, and work instruction. 

Policy is a guideline or statement of position with respect to a given topic.  

A Process is the highest-level description of a large task or series of related tasks. It provides the big picture. You are usually dealing with a process when the job involves: 
  • Three or more medium to large tasks
  • More than one person, job title, or department is involved
  • There are time delays of hours, days, or longer between steps
  • Multiple procedures and work instructions are necessary to fully describe it. 
A Procedure is more detailed than a process but less detailed than a work instruction. It tells how a series of sequential tasks should be performed to achieve a specific outcome. You are probably dealing with a procedure when: 
  • The task has ten separate actions or three or more small tasks
  • The steps get two or more levels deep (steps and sub-steps)
  • The job involves more than one person or department
  • The task is completed from start to finish in one continuous time frame (no significant delays between steps).
A Work Instruction is the most detailed description of a task. Its sole purpose is to explain step by step how to do a specific task. You are probably dealing with a work instruction when: 
  • The job has fewer than ten separate actions
  • The job is performed by one person from start to finish
  • The task is completed in a short amount of time from start to finish.
To bring these terms to life, we have noted below if the topic is a Policy, Process, Procedure, or Work Instruction. HINT: For a couple, the correct answer may depend on the situation or size organization. 

 What is each one?   Policy   Process ,  Procedure , or     Work Instruction   ?

The answers are below.
  • Acceptable Internet Usage    Policy   
  • Building a Jeep Wrangler    Process   
  • Month-End Closing (Finance & Accounting Department) –   Procedure  
  • Printing a Report    Work Instruction  
  • Installing a Printer Driver    Work Instruction  
  • Filling Customer Orders     Process   
  • Credit Terms and Collection Guidelines    Policy  

Process Policy Procedure Work Instruction Definitions.pdf

Zavanta Software for SOP, Work Instructions, and Policy & Procedure Management

With Zavanta software,  you can build this type of information architecture for any process in any industry. We leverage structured content and content overlays to provide writing support. We automate the full life cycle of policy and procedure management to make it easier to track version control, approvals, and employee usage. Contact us today to start a conversation. 

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