Nesting Concepts (process vs. procedure)

Subject: Nesting Concepts (process vs. procedure)
From: SIANNON -at- VISUS -dot- JNJ -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 31 Jan 2002 10:33:16

Matthew Horn writes:
"I may be wrong, but aren't you confusing a PROCESS with a PROCEDURE?"

<discussion mode=equinonecroflagellative, voice=philosophical>

I think we had a discussion before about how tasks, processes and
procedures are nested within one another. I don't recall a firm consensus
being achieved, because localized business custom caused different
companies to define/use the same terms differently.

I think we agreed upon the term "steps", but that's about it.

My personal take on this may or may not match anyone else's,
but here it is:

Process = the flow through which work is accomplished,
or a goal is reached; may have multiple divergent
agents of action (e.g. a high-level process for the
manufacture of a widget may be Planning -> Production
-> Distribution, which are each done by different
departments); can be viewed as multiple
levels, which is where people can start getting
confused (e.g. I borrowed a classification system
from a paper that grouped process models under
"phase", "stage", and "task" levels, in increasing
level of granularity);
Procedure = the flow through which an action is performed;
may be interchangable with Task for some folks,
as it is often documented in a step-by-step manner
(this depends on localized definition of the term);
usually has a single agent of action
Task = an action to be performed; may be interchangable with
Procedure for some folks, as it is often documented
in a step-by-step manner(this depends on localized
definition of the term); usually has a single agent
of action

Where I work, we usually use the term "Procedure" instead of "Task".
Processes and procedures both have higher and lower levels of granularity
-- processes are often seen as the concept, and the procedure as the
step-by-step implementation of the concept. Example of nested processes:

@ Organizational level:
Planning -> Production -> Distribution
@ Phase level, expand "Production":
Manufacture -> Package -> Inspect/Test -> Release to Dist.
@ Stage level, expand "Package":
Widgets in Cartons -> Cartons in Cases -> Cases on Pallets
@ Task level, expand "Cases"
Procedure for Casing ProductType A
(20-count cases of 10-unit cartons)
Procedure for Casing ProductType B
(32-count cases of 6-unit cartons)
Procedure for Recasing product for Custom Unit Orders
(mixed selection in custom cases)

Note that while I arbitrarily apply the term "Procedure" at this level, it
could just as easily be called a process, especially if another level of
detail exists below this level (e.g. expand "Procedure for Casing
ProductType A" to include "Automatic casing of product on production
Machine", "Manual casing of product using interface X", and "Manual casing
of product if interface loses connection to database"--within each of these
procedures exist steps for physical handling of product, data entry and/or
storage, associated paperwork, conditional evaluations and specific
constraints)'s just some antics with semantics, in the end...I believe the
argument was really about quantifying the value of documenting a process
versus just doing it...


(I've found value in detailing processes mainly to save time explaining to
others what is expected from them or me, and when in the process it is
expected, rather than having to waste time later when someone doesn't get
what they need when they need it.)

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