Policies, processes, procedures–what is the difference?

At $Company we distinguish between three levels of standard-setting:

  1. Policies are high-level, often company-wide principles or “ground rules”. Policies are essentially choices the company makes.
  2. Processes are mid-level, cross-functional descriptions of how $Company delivers a certain end result. Processes implement policies. They are essentially traffic regulations on which department plays which role for which deliverable.
  3. Procedures are lower-level, step-by-step instructions on how someone accomplishes a certain task. Procedures implement processes. They are essentially checklists to ensure that the result of a unit of work matches the expectations of the next person in line.

Policies

Examples are the company values, which department does what, which customer segments we focus on and which we don’t.

But also whether it is acceptable to work from a different location, when bonuses are paid etc.

Policies are often contingent in nature, which means that there is no absolute “right” or “wrong” decision to take. Eg one company could choose a value of “success at all cost” whereas another company could choose a value of “always be considerate”, and both could be successful. But people moving from one company to the other would have to adapt their behavior to fit in.

Processes

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Procedures

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