Differences Between Process, Procedure & Work Instructions

When documenting a quality management system, a company needs to identify its processes, procedures, and work instructions. Why? Because it helps in meeting the requirements of ISO 9001:2015. 

Here is a simple explanation of these terms 

  • A process states whats needs to get done and why
  • A procedure asserts how the process needs to get completed
  • Work instructions show how to carry out the said procedure

The process is a high-level, strategic method of control. It is in terms of the summary of objectives, specifications, and extensive resources required. The procedure focuses more on specifics, such as responsibilities, specific tools, methods, and measurements. 
Work instructions act as a guideline to implement the process and procedure. In this blog, we will talk about the differences between them in detail. Also, we will show you how to write work instructions and what a good SOP manual contains.

What is Process Instruction?

Process and Work Instruction

Process instructions are an activity or set of activities that utilize resources to transform inputs into outputs. 

It needs to have defined objectives, inputs, outputs, activities, and resources. 

The key sections should be there when defining a process.  

What is Procedure Instruction?

Procedure instructions are a uniform method that outlines how to perform a process. It contains sections like: 

  • What needs to get accomplished and how it will get executed
  • Where the inputs come from, and where are outputs going? 
  •  The requirements(criteria) that need to get fulfilled
  • Definitions, terminology, explanations, etc
  • Why do we need the Procedure? 
  • Who performs what action? 
  • Any locational requirements 
  • Information, tools, or other resources required

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What are Work Instructions?

Work instructions show how to perform a task within a process. It is a more detailed part of the procedure.

Why are work instructions both explanatory and organizational? 

Sometimes, more details are needed compared to what has already gotten described in procedures.

Many companies introduced work instructions to give details of specific tasks shown in a procedure or help in training. It is to reduce mistakes as step-by-step instructions might be missing from a generally drafted one.      

The functional division between work and procedure can be a useful organizational tool if there is the advantage of dividing it into different sub-procedures. They need to be related to each other but covering many aspects. 

What is the Difference Between Process, Procedure, and Work Instructions?

Process Procedure Work Instruction
It is a set of activities that transforms input elements into results It is a particular set of way to carry out a process Shows the necessary steps required to perform a particular task
What kind of process do employees participate in?
By whom the specific process is getting done?
Where is the process taking place?
When is the process happening?
How is the procedure getting performed?
Why is the specific procedure getting performed?
How to complete a particular task through a process with detailed directions
The work employees need to do to transform business processes into results The compulsory method that employees need to follow when carrying out a specific procedure Compulsory guidance that employees need to refer to when carrying out work processes
Procedures may consist of 0,1 or more work instructions It is a particular set of way to carry out a process Work instructions focus on one specific task at a time
Fulfills more than one role Fulfills more than one role Fulfills only one role
Summarizes all activities Shows how to do the work process but doesn’t reveal all the details of how to get it done. Shows the detail of every step to follow in an activity
Gives the workflow model in BPMN. That too at a high level Provides documentation with both images and narrative. Usually as workflow diagrams and use cases Provides documents with full details that shows step-by-step instructions that need to get carried out in different activities
Preserves all documents with information of essential records. Including traceability for ISO quality edits Documentation required to effectively plan operation and control of processes Instructions are not mandatory for a system that is based on ISO 9001. But it gets included to maintain consistency in operations
It is a set of activities that transforms input elements into results It ensures that QMS runs consistently and accurately as per the required regulations and policies It ensures that QMS gets defined correctly, so it can run as per required regulations and policies

What Does Good Instruction Contain?

Work instructions should be clear for an employee on how he/she should perform a work task. Avoid any room for wrong interpretation. 

Good SOP shouldn’t be vague. Companies need to ensure that they reduce the chance of confusing their workers as much as possible. Hence, instructions need to be easy and brief.

Here are some rules that every good SOP has for its workers. 

  1. Clarity

    An employee should immediately understand the meaning behind the work instruction. Avoid complex sentences, multi-syllable words, acronyms, technical terms, jargon, and unnecessary blather. 

    Work instructions should be easy to understand for every employee of an organization who does the task. Use active voice to help them. By active voice, we are referring to the verb, subject, noun sentence structure. 

  2. Accessibility

    What is the use of work instructions if they can get accessed only from the office and not from the factory floor?

    Employees performing their tasks should have easy access to work instructions at any place and time. 

  3. Credibility

    Work instructions need to be credible, accurate, and helpful. If not, then it will just be an idea that nobody cares about in the business. 

    Your organization should consult the most experienced employee doing a task and request them to explain how it gets done. Ensure that the work instructions match the reality of the workings of your company. 

    A tool like CloudTutorial can help you involve the right people and collaborate on creating an SOP and keeping it updated in the future.  

  4. Consistency

    Work instructions should go for a single style. There should be consistency for terminology, media, layout, and method. It makes it easier to understand it. 

    For consistency, they should stick to the skill set of the employees. 

    CloudTutorial can help you create a consistent format across the entire organization.  

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    with your team on creating an SOPs to help your employees finds answers to their issues instantly.

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  5. Simple and Short

    If you can’t explain it clearly, you don’t understand it well enough. Hence, take time to understand it properly. It will avoid mistakes later. 

    If you want to write work instructions, it is essential to keep the language clear and short. It’s not about sounding clever, instead see it as the language used in children’s books.    

  6. Visually Pleasing

    People are more comfortable with visual media compared to reading newspapers and books. Hence, try adding drawings, images, and videos in your work instructions. Keep your target audience in mind and add it accordingly. With the help of CloudTutorial, you can write visually pleasing work instructions by adding images and videos. 

  7. Written By The Most Experienced Person

    Only the most experienced person should write a work instruction for particular tasks. Never give this job to someone who isn’t completely familiar with this job.    

    Anyone who isn’t completely familiar with the role cannot write a work instruction to its full potential. 

    Unless the work instructions are small in size, they shouldn’t get written by only one person. 

    Now, you know what good work instruction contains. Right? But how to write it? We will cover that in the next section.

7 Steps to Writing Work Instructions

 Process Instruction

Step 1 – Present a Clear Title 

An introduction is an essential part. Hence, it should get done right. Here are some suggestions: 

  • Provide a context. Explain briefly which process the task is a part of in the work instructions. 
  • Show the output. Explain briefly the purpose or what the result of the task is in the work instructions. 
  • Recognize the owners. Explain in short who is the owner of the particular task or process. 
  • The title should have a reference to the job. For example, How to write clear work instructions.

Step 2 – Explain the Purpose

When writing work instructions for your company, it’s essential to have a purpose behind it. 

What’s the purpose of your work instructions? Why are you preparing it for your business? 

Answering these questions will deepen the understanding before you dive into the details. 

A clear purpose to “how to write clear work instructions” would be “To clearly explain how a specific task gets performed“.

Step 3 – Explain How To Do It? 

List all the information required to do the job in the document. Listing all of these in bullet points will make it easy to read. It will also help determine which information is there or is missing in the document. 

The bullet point list should get arranged logically. You can add any helpful or relevant references right into the text as regular hyperlinks. 

To explain how, for example, how a specific process gets performed, you need to choose a format to explain it. There are three choices, the cookbook format, a flowchart, and the decision table.    

The different processes may require other formats. It may depend on how complex they are. 

People prefer visual learning. Hence, flowcharts, tables, and images are the best approach in explaining business processes.     

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Step 4 – Rewrite and Simplify Your Documents 

Simple, short, and plain are the three rules for excellent writing. 

  • Use simple and short sentences. It should not be longer than 15 words and avoid having clauses. 
  • Use simple and short words. Multi-syllable words make reading difficult and also sound too intellectual.
  • Don’t use acronyms. If necessary, then use it out the first time and enclose it in the brackets next to it. 
  • Add a list of abbreviations the reader can refer to in your document. 
  • Determine which term or word you will use to describe the procedures and stick with that in user manuals. Avoid using different words for the same processes. 

Are you looking for an in-depth guide on how to write an online user manual in a comprehensive way? Visit our blog on how to create an online user manual for further reading.  

Step 5 – Format Your Documents for Easier Reading

See your document as an educational tool. Try to put yourself in your reader’s place and think of how you can make it easier for them to understand your document. 

  • Break down any steps in your procedures and work instructions into a number sequence. In case there are more than ten steps, then you can subdivide them into different topics. One step describes one activity and shouldn’t take more than 15 seconds to complete. 
  •  Highlight essential information using italicized text, bold, or upper case in your procedures and work instructions. 
  • Decide how you will format your procedures and work instructions document and stick with it. 
  • Use images or drawings or a video. Ensure that the illustrations fit the text. You can place them on the left side and keep the text on the right side of your procedures and work instructions document. 
  • Convert any list into a numbered or bulleted list. 

CloudTutorial has built-in formatting that makes it easy to ensure consistency across all your documents. 

Step 6 – Add References

Share suggestions and sources for additional learning and reading. You can even add appendix or footnotes to your documentation.    

Step 7 – Test it Out in Your Workplace

Ask your team to perform the task by following your procedure and work instruction manual. It’s one of the best practices to ensure that your manual is easy to understand and follow. 

It will also tell you whether certain sections of your procedure and work instruction manual are confusing or need clarification. 

  • Ask your co-workers to read the draft of your standard operating procedures and give feedback on it. Does it match the way the processes get performed in reality? Does it feel confusing? How can we make the standard operating procedures clearer?    
  • Request your co-workers to perform their work by following the steps from the standard operating procedures. Do not try to help them, and only observe. Don’t give any explanations. 
  • Create notes of what should get added or changed on your copy of SOPs. 


An ISO 9001 quality management system is a system that documents procedures, processes, and responsibilities.
A quality management system helps coordinate and direct business activities to fulfill regulatory and customer requirements. It also focuses on improving efficiency and effectiveness regularly.

It is a technique of using flow charts to show the flow of processes. It proceeds from the most macro perspective to the level of detail required for identifying opportunities to improve. It focuses on the work rather than on hierarchy or job titles.

Operating procedures are step-by-step processes compiled by a company to help workers carry out their routine activities.
SOPs help a company achieve efficiency, uniformity of performance, and quality output. An operating procedure carries out an operation correctly and always in the same manner.

It is defined as a system where the output of a system becomes the input for the next iteration of the system.

ISO 9001 is the internationally recognized QMS system that can benefit any company regardless of its size.
ISO 9001 quality management certification can help a company improve, streamline an operation to reduce costs.


Visit CloudTutorial to build an advanced internal knowledge base that plays a vital role in implementing standard operating procedure sops in your business.

With the help of the top features of CloudTutorial, your business can trace SOP development in real-time and see how the employees are carrying out all their routine tasks in the company. 

We also provide procedure templates, which your business can use to create step-by-step methods on how an operation is to get executed.   

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