Understanding the Differences: Processes, Projects, and Procedures.

Filip Stachecki

6 min

In business management and process modeling, distinguishing between three key terms - process, project, and procedure - is essential. While these terms may seem similar at first glance, they each play a unique role in an organization's operations. This article is tailored for beginners in process modeling, breaking down these concepts with real-life examples.


A process is a set of interrelated activities that transform inputs into outputs to achieve a specific objective. It's a broader concept, often systematic and ongoing. Processes are crucial in achieving the strategic goals of an organization.

Example: Consider a bakery. The process of making bread involves several steps - from mixing ingredients and kneading the dough to baking and packaging. This process is consistent and is repeated every day to meet the demand for bread.

Official Definition

Process: set of interrelated or interacting activities that use inputs to deliver an intended result


A project, on the other hand, is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result. Projects have a defined beginning and end, specific objectives, and often a unique set of operations.

Example: The bakery decides to launch a new type of pastry. This launch is a project. It has a clear start (concept development), a set of objectives (e.g., develop recipe, test market, launch product), and an end (when the pastry is successfully introduced to the market).

Official Definition

Project: unique process, consisting of a set of coordinated and controlled activities with start and finish dates, undertaken to achieve an objective conforming to specific requirements, including the constraints of time, cost and resources


A procedure is a set of detailed instructions to perform a specific task. It's more about the "how" than the "what" or "why". Procedures are often part of processes, providing step-by-step guidance on how to perform particular aspects of the process.

Example: Within the bakery's bread-making process, there's a procedure for kneading dough. This procedure would detail the exact steps, specifying details such as how long to knead and which techniques to use. The procedure ensures consistency and quality in this part of the process.

Official Definition

Procedure: specified way to carry out an activity or a process

Key Differences

Aspect Process Project Procedure
1. Duration and Timeline Ongoing and continuous with no defined end date. Temporary with a clear start and end date. Time-bound as it relates to a specific task, but can be repeated as part of a process.
2. Objectives and Goals Aimed at maintaining and improving operational efficiency, often with a focus on routine and consistency. Designed to achieve a specific goal or create something unique. The objective is usually distinct and one-off. Focused on a specific task, providing a step-by-step method to achieve consistency and accuracy.
3. Scope and Scale Broad in scope, potentially affecting multiple aspects of an organization or life situation. Has a defined scope with specific deliverables and outcomes. Narrow in scope, targeting a particular task within a process.
4. Flexibility and Adaptation Generally stable but may evolve over time to improve efficiency. More dynamic, may require adaptation as the project progresses to meet its objectives. Typically rigid and structured, allowing for minimal variation to ensure consistency.
5. Resources and Planning Requires ongoing resource allocation and management. Needs careful planning, often involving resource allocation, timelines, and risk management specific to the project. Focuses on the resources necessary for a specific task, often detailed in the procedure itself.

Other Real-Life Examples

  • Restaurant Operation (Process): The overall operation of serving a restaurant meal, from taking the customer's order to collecting the check, is a process.
  • Marketing Campaign (Project): A three-month campaign to promote a new menu item is a project.
  • Food Safety Check (Procedure): The step-by-step procedure the staff follows to prepare an ice cream sundae is a procedure.


Understanding the distinctions between a process, a project, and a procedure is essential for efficient business management and successful process modeling. Recognizing these differences helps in allocating resources effectively, managing operations smoothly, and achieving organizational goals.


ISO 9000:2015(en) Quality management systems - Fundamentals and vocabulary available at: https://www.iso.org/obp/ui/#iso:std:iso:9000:ed-4:v1:en