It’s important to highlight the purpose of each and label documents accordingly.

Another challenge that particularly larger organisations experience is knowing when to separate Policies, Work Instructions and Procedures. Combining elements of the three can be confusing.

It’s important to highlight the purpose of each and label documents accordingly.


  • Definition: An ordered, step-by-step guide to handling a process, usually built upon industry best-practice or learnings from experienced staff. E.g. Sales and Quotes Procedure.
  • Lifespan: Can change often, depending on whether a quicker and more efficient way is discovered by staff, or based on customer feedback.
  • Usage: Often. This is generally the ‘best way’ to complete a task, but sometimes you might need to adapt the process to meet different customer needs.

Work Instruction

  • Definition: Click-level or task-level guides that show staff the technical way to complete steps within a process. E.g. Change customer’s address in the CRM.
  • Lifespan: Usually only change when software or machinery is replaced or upgraded. One Work Instruction could be linked to multiple processes.
  • Usage: Occasionally. Staff quickly learn the steps as there is generally only one way to complete the task, because it is based on a software or device functional design or limitation.


  • Definition: Protocols or rules within your organisation that generally reflect industry standards or guidelines. E.g. Social Media Rules or Telephone Etiquette.
  • Lifespan: Usually need reviewing due to external influences, such as revisions to Industry Regulations or customer expectations change.
  • Usage: Rare. There are consequences for not adhering to a policy, it may risk reputation or cause financial damage to the business, but it is often well-known and referenced only during induction or refresher training.

What problem does it solve?

Having a lot of documented processes can be confusing for staff. Team members could be overwhelmed with complex documentation and unsure whether they are required to adhere entirely to a documented process or whether it is simply a guide that can be adapted to different customer needs.

Using these labels helps staff interpret the intention and meaning of the documentation.

What is the benefit?

By labelling documentation consistently, frontline staff, managers, quality auditors and process improvement specialists can clearly understand the intent of the document and the implications that it has for the individual and the business.

What is the effort?

Process owners and managers will need to negotiate and agree whether a specific task or set of tasks should be classified as a Procedure, Work Instruction or Policy.

Ask: Is it an ordered set of tasks? Is it an industry guideline? Does this relate to a specific task within the CRM? What is the impact if staff don’t follow this step-by-step?

Is it right for you?

Larger businesses with more staff, more product variation, more procedural tasks and larger customer bases will usually have more documented knowledge, therefore need to carefully label documentation as either a Procedure, Work Instruction or Policy accordingly.

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