A procedure is a well thought out course of action. It prescribes the specific way in which a piece of work is to be done. Procedures are called action guidelines. They are generally derived from policies. Where policies define a broad field, procedures show a sequence of activities within that area. The emphasis is on chronological, step-by-step sequence of required actions. For example, a student is required to complete several itemized steps in order to register him-self for courses in a university. The basic purpose of a procedure is to spell out clearly the way one is to go about doing something.

             Procedures are used in all major functional areas. They exist throughout the organization. They exist in a hierarchy of importance. They are more exacting, of course, at lower levels leaving no scope for interpretations. All routine tasks can be performed efficiently if unnecessary steps are eliminated and one procedure is laid down. For most policies, there is an accompanying procedure to show how that policy should be carried out. For example, the policy ‘customer is right’ may demand a _procedure like: where the customer is expected to complain in case of trouble, whether the complaint should be made orally or in writing, who would process the complaints the departmental heads or divisional heads, when is it necessary for the General Manager to look into complaints and take appropriate action and so on. 

Role of Procedures in Organizations

            Procedures play a vital role in an organization’s daily operations; they “relieve  the manager of much of the detail in directing sub-ordinates. The indicate the steps to be accomplished as well as the required time and order of performance. Member need not invent original solutions in order to solve repetitive problems, a standard procedure can be pressed into service readily and time and energy can be saved. By prescribing a series of interlinking steps of actions which are more or less standardized, procedures reduce the need for further decision-making. Procedures to dispose of routine problems facilitate members to develop more efficient methods of operation. Again, procedures provide a basis for uniform performance as well as a standard against which we can measure such performance. Procedures are basically formulated by management to ensure consistent action for routine work. Procedures help in integrating organizational efforts and facilitate control process. According to W.H. Newman, ‘Formal organization divides the total work of a company into parts, thus permitting concentrated and specialized attention where necessary. Procedures help tie all the parts together. Like an automatic shuttle on a loom passing back and forth through the warp threads, the procedures weave woof threads that bind a firm fabric’. However, procedures tend to become complex and rigid for various reasons. If procedures are rigorously applied by various departments at various levels in the organization, the administrative process is seriously hampered. Members begin to feel the choking effect of overelaborate procedures. Standard forms and rulings acquire a status that few date challenge. Often there is duplication of effort caused by the desire for secrecy or total ignorance of what others are actually doing. 

Requirements for Effective Procedures

  1. Procedures should be based on adequate facts of the particular situation, not guesses or wishes.
  2. Procedures should focus on desired objectives
  3. They should be standardized so that responsibility can be easily fixed.
  4. They should be stable and the need for changing them should arise only in case of novel situations or it is felt that the costs of the procedures out weight the benefits.
  5. They should be subjected to periodic review to ascertain if they are needed under changed conditions.
  6. Other important questions like- How many steps in the procedure? How to improve procedures to utilize firm are resources fully? How much paper work? Can the procedure be performed in a faster and economical manner? Is there duplication of effort? How to simplify the steps and achieve the results? – should also be looked into carefully before developing new procedures.