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Policies vs. Procedures: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 22, 2023
Policies are guiding principles set by an organization, while procedures are step-by-step instructions to carry out tasks.

Key Differences

Policies are the rules and guidelines created by an organization to set its principles and procedures are the steps that need to be followed to comply with these policies. Policies provide the framework for an organization's operation and procedures are the methods used to implement these policies. Policies are generally more broad and overarching, while procedures are specific and detailed.
Policies are the guiding principles that dictate the behavior and procedures are the steps to be followed to achieve a particular outcome. Policies are usually more general and abstract, while procedures are practical and concrete. Policies are made to achieve the organization's objectives and procedures are the means to achieve these objectives. Policies set the expectations and procedures provide the process to meet these expectations.
Policies are statements that reflect the values and mission of an organization, and procedures are the specific steps taken to achieve these values and mission. Policies are broad and encompassing, while procedures are detailed and specific. Policies set the standards and procedures provide the means to uphold these standards. Policies are designed to guide decision-making and procedures are the actions taken to implement these decisions.
Policies are created to provide guidance and procedures are created to implement this guidance. Policies are the overarching principles that set the direction for an organization and procedures are the specific steps taken to achieve this direction. Policies are general and broad, while procedures are specific and detailed. Policies provide the framework and procedures provide the method to achieve the framework. Policies are the “what” and procedures are the “how”.

Comparison Chart


Guiding principles
Step-by-step instructions


Broad and general
Specific and detailed


Set framework and expectations
Provide method and process


Abstract and general
Practical and concrete


Direct the behavior
Steps to achieve the behavior

Policies and Procedures Definitions


Statements that reflect an organization's values and mission.
The hospital's policies prioritize patient care and safety.


Specific steps to achieve a task or goal.
The procedures for the experiment were carefully followed.


Framework for an organization's operation.
The policies of the organization are designed to promote ethical business practices.


Methods used to implement policies.
The procedures of the hospital ensure compliance with health and safety regulations.


Rules created to achieve an organization's objectives.
The school's policies include a strict anti-bullying stance.


Step-by-step instructions to carry out a task.
The procedures for the software installation were easy to follow.


Guidelines or principles set by an organization.
The company's policies prohibit discrimination in the workplace.


Detailed instructions for a particular process.
The procedures for assembling the furniture were included in the package.


Broad and overarching principles.
The policies of the government are aimed at improving the economy.


A systematic way to carry out a task.
The procedures for the event were planned in advance.


A plan or course of action, as of a government, political party, or business, intended to influence and determine decisions, actions, and other matters
American foreign policy.
The company's personnel policy.


A manner of proceeding; a way of performing or effecting something
Standard procedure.


A course of action, guiding principle, or procedure considered expedient, prudent, or advantageous
Honesty is the best policy.


A series of steps taken to accomplish an end
A medical procedure.
Evacuation procedures.


Prudence, shrewdness, or sagacity in practical matters
It is never good policy to speak rashly.


(Computers) A set of instructions that performs a specific task; a subroutine or function.


A written contract or certificate of insurance.


A set of established forms or methods for conducting the affairs of an organized body such as a business, club, or government.


A numbers game.


(Law) The set of rules under which litigation is conducted, especially in contrast to the set of substantive legal principles that determine the merits of legal controversies and disputes.


Plural of policy


Plural of procedure


What are procedures?

Procedures are detailed steps taken to carry out a task or achieve a goal.

What are policies?

Policies are guidelines or principles set by an organization to dictate behavior.

How do policies and procedures relate to each other?

Policies provide the framework and procedures are the methods used to implement these policies.

Can policies exist without procedures?

Yes, policies can exist without procedures, but procedures help to implement the policies.

Can procedures be general?

Procedures can be general, but they are typically more specific and detailed.

How are policies created?

Policies are created by organizations to reflect their values, objectives, and mission.

Can procedures exist without policies?

Yes, procedures can exist without policies, but policies provide the framework for procedures.

What is the importance of policies in an organization?

Policies provide the guidelines and framework for an organization's operation and set the expectations.

Who is responsible for creating procedures?

Procedures are typically created by the people who will be carrying out the task or process.

Can policies be changed?

Yes, policies can be changed, but changes should be carefully considered and implemented.

Can procedures be changed?

Yes, procedures can be changed to improve efficiency or effectiveness.

How are policies enforced?

Policies are enforced through monitoring and disciplinary actions for non-compliance.

How are procedures enforced?

Procedures are enforced by ensuring that they are followed correctly and consistently.

Can policies be specific?

Policies can be specific, but they are generally more broad and general.

How do policies and procedures affect an organization's culture?

Policies and procedures help to shape an organization's culture by setting the expectations and providing the means to meet these expectations.

How are procedures created?

Procedures are created based on the policies and provide the specific steps to achieve the policies.

What are examples of procedures?

Examples of procedures include the steps to assemble a product, the process to handle a customer complaint, and the method to conduct an experiment.

What is the importance of procedures in an organization?

Procedures provide the specific steps to achieve the organization's objectives and ensure compliance with policies.

Who is responsible for creating policies?

Policies are typically created by the management or leadership of an organization.

What are examples of policies?

Examples of policies include anti-discrimination policies, health and safety policies, and ethical business practices policies.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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