What Is the Purpose of Policies and Procedures?

Policies and procedures are a means for businesses and other organizations to formally set out what they intend to do and the means by which they will carry out the stated objectives. Carefully considered and correctly implemented policies and procedures reduce the risk of an organization making errors or failing because of a lack of focus.

Policies consist of high-level statements of intent about the things a business either wants to do or plans to avoid doing. Specific policy areas are divided by departments such as HR, finance, security or IT. An overall corporate policy might also cover all of these areas to either replace or supplement specific policies. Policies focus on the intentions of an organization, not on the functions its staff members carry out.

Procedures, on the other hand, are detailed descriptions of the tasks that are part of an organization’s business. These may be in the form of step-by-step instructions, flow charts or another descriptive form. They should be detailed enough for new staff to follow and standardized enough to prevent waste and errors. However, it is possible to write procedures that focus on the expected outcome of a task without specifying the means of achieving it if staff members are expected to use their own initiative.