A procedure is a chronological sequence of steps to be undertaken to enforce a policy and to attain an objective. It lays down the specific manner in which a particular activity is to be performed.
It is a series of detailed steps indicating how to accomplish a task. According to Allen “procedures prescribe the manner or method by which the work is to be performed.”
It is a planned sequence of operations for performing repetitive activities uniformly and consistently. According to George R. Terry, a procedure is a series of related tasks that make up the chronological sequence and the established way of performing the work to be accomplished.
In business, procedures are generally established for purchase of raw materials, processing of orders, shipping of goods, selection of employees, redressed of grievances, holding and conducting of meetings, handling claims, collecting payments, etc.
Procedures arc generally laid down for repetitive work so that same steps are taken each time the activity is performed. Procedures are needed for every part of the organization.
Procedures are different from policies and methods though both serve as guides to future actions. A policy is a broad and general guide to decision making while a procedure is an operational guide to action. The former provides scope for judgment while the latter leaves hardly any room for interpretation and judgment.
A policy delineates a broad area of operation; a procedure lays down the specific path through that area. It chalks out the specific way in which a piece of work is to be performed For instance; a company may have the policy of promoting employees on the basis of merit.
In order to implement this promotion policy, the procedure may consist of definition of merit, records of performance, tests and interviews to identify the most meritorious employee.
A policy! Helps in achieving an objective while a procedure shows the way implement the policy. Thus, a policy is wider in scope and more flexible in nature than a procedure.
A method outlines the specific way in which a particular step in their procedure is to be performed. It is a plan of action, a sub plan of a pro cadre. For example, for measuring merit, employees may be comparing in terms of punctuality, discipline, output, workmanship, etc.
A method is more limited in scope but more detailed than a procedure. It specifies the manual or mechanical way by which an operation is to be perform Methods help in increasing the usefulness and effectiveness of a procedure.
Procedures play an important role in the daily operations of an organization. Procedures are established after thorough study and analysis of work. Therefore,
(i) They simplify work by eliminating unnecessary and overlapping steps,
(ii) Procedures relieve managers of much detail in directing subordinates,
(iii) They avoid chaos and random activity by ensuring consistency in operations. Once a procedure is established, it can be used over and over again for doing a particular work.
Procedures are required at all levels but they are particularly significant at lower levels where routine jobs are performed,
(iv) A procedure indicates a standard way of performing a work leading to higher level of performance,
(v) It ensures uniformity of action by laying down a well thought out course of action,
(vi) A procedure facilitates delegation of authority and executive control by laying down the sequence and timing of each task,
(vii) Procedures promote efficiency of employees by prescribing a complete sequence and they save time and expense in training of employees.
However, procedures may discourage innovation and improvement in work performance by prescribing one standardized way of doing work. Faulty procedures result in delay, inefficiency and demoralization.
To be effective,
(1) a procedure should be based on the objectives, policies, needs and work of the organization.
(2) It should be standardized so as to be helpful in fixing responsibility.
(3) A good procedure should be well balanced i.e., it should ensure both flexibility and stability of the organization.
(4) It should be based on relevant facts not guesses.
(5) It should provide a logical sequence tailor-made to the needs of the situation.
(6) It should be based on considerations of efficiency and control.
(7) It should be the best alternative of doing a particular activity or goals. It should be compatible with the objectives of the organization.
It should be within the broad area of policy laid down by top management. There should be continuous review and updating of the procedures.
(8) A procedure should be reviewed and revised periodically. Procedures tend to restrict initiative, innovation and creativity and, therefore, they should be kept to the minimum possible.
In order to serve as an operational guide to employees, procedures must be written in clear and precise terms. Procedures must integrate different pieces of work into a coordinated whole.