Difference process and procedure

The word « process » is part of corporate vocabulary and most people use it for any serie of action they identify. However, quality speaking, a process has a specific definition that is often mistaken with the procedure definition. What is the difference between a procedure and a process ? This article will help you find out.

What is a process ?

A process, quality-speaking, is a set of interrelated or interacting activities that uses inputs to deliver an intended output. What you used to call processes are in fact procedures : a specified way to carry out an activity. Check our definitions article for more details on ISO 9001 definitions.
Here is a simple example. You own a 5-stars restaurant. An example of process for your organization is the « Cooking » process

It has a few inputs, let’s say your customers’ orders, the ingredients and the kitchen utensils. If you want to know more about processes, this article will give you more details about it.

Let’s stop speaking about your restaurant and its cooking process. Here is an example of an Integrated Management System process.

The diagram takes into account the interested parties, the input and outputs of the process and helps understanding it. The informations shall be included in a document describing the process, its key performance indicators, the responsibilities, …

The complete description of the integrated management system with its 22 documents and 5 procedures is available in the ISO 9001 pack.

What is a procedure ?

A procedure details the way the actions should be performed to carry out an activity. This term is often used as “process” in corporate language but it is incorrect. Example : A cooking recipe, an internal audit, how to operate with a soldering iron, …

Depending on the type of procedure, you might need to specify different things, like :

  • The responsibilities, with a RACI matrix
  • The details of the actions
  • A supporting diagram to help people understand the procedure
  • The required resources (equipment, human, …)

This article will help you write the procedures you need. At the end, you will have several procedures describing the activities of a process that transforms an input into an output.

For example, in the purchasing process you could find the procedures :

  • External service providers selection
  • External service providers review
  • Litigation management

In the pack, there are 4 processes, 7 sub-processes and 28 procedures described to carry out the activities required by the ISO 9001 standard.

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