Working with Systems and Procedures

Working with Systems and Procedures

In the present day competitive environment, it is essential that the organization is to perform very efficiently for its survival. To be competitive, the organization is to be one step ahead of its competitors in terms of product quality, technology deployment, productivity, and efficiency.  The organizational management is required to foresee in the future and to take and plan actions accordingly to suit the needs of the future. The organization is required to continuously adjust to the changing environment so that it continues to operate efficiently and is not left behind its competitors. In this regards, organization which is working with systems and procedures adapts the conditions of the changed environment more quickly than the organization which does not work with systems and procedures.

The word system is derived from the Greek word ‘systema’ which means the organized relationship among the functioning units. A system is an orderly grouping of independent components linked together according to plan to achieve a specific objective. It is an integrated collection of the components which satisfy functions necessary to achieve the system goals and which have relationship to one another which defines structure of the system.

The characteristics of the system are (i) basic components, (ii) interaction and structure, (iii) goal, (iv) behaviour, and (v) life cycle. An important feature of the system is that its basic components are to interact among themselves. The basic components are not the collection or grouping of elements only. Further, an organization can be considered as a large complex system itself. This complex system consists of interrelated and interlocking systems. Changes in one part of the system can have both anticipated and unanticipated consequences in other parts of the system.

A system, without a goal, starts moving in all directions. As a result coordination among all the parts (components) of the system is lost. Integration of the system components is necessary to achieve the goal of the system. A close coordination is required between all the parts of the system. Behaviour is the way the system reacts to its surrounding environment. Behaviour is determined by the procedures designed to make sure that components behave in ways which allow the system to achieve its goal. Further, every system has a life cycle. It needs changes with the changing external environment.

The organization which adopts a system approach for its functioning has smooth operations for its day to day activities. The management of such an organization is simpler. The systems in an organization are normally socio- technical, where human participants and / or machines perform work (processes and activities) using technology, information, and other resources to produce specific products and / or services for specific internal or external customers.

There are normally a number of systems existing in an organization. These systems interact with each other in day-to-day operation of the organization. Effective coordination and good communication is required for the smooth functioning of the organization. Organizational management is to ensure that there is no clash taking place between the systems and each system supplements the working of its boundary systems for achieving effective organizational performance.

A system is defined as an organizational structure which has distinctive responsibilities, processes, procedures, and resources for implementing some of the organizational objectives. It includes certain aspects of the overall management functions. The system has boundaries which are normally defined. It has inputs, outputs, and feedback mechanism. It maintains an internal steady state despite what is happening outside its boundaries. It d properties which are different than the whole and which are not possessed by its individual elements.

At the basic level, systems are divided into the two categories namely (i) closed systems which are theoretical systems that do not interact with the outside of its boundary elements and are not influenced by its surroundings, (ii) open systems which are the real world systems whose boundaries allow exchanges of energy, materials, and information with the other systems within the organization in which they exist. Some organizational systems also interact with systems existing outside the organization.

As stated, a system consists of a set of processes. Each process constitutes detailed methods, procedures, and routines which are required to carry out a specific activity, perform a duty, or solve a problem. It is an organized, purposeful structure which consists of inter-related and inter-dependent elements (components, entities, factors, members, and parts etc.). These elements continually influence one another (directly or indirectly) to maintain their activity and the existence of the system, in order to achieve the objectives of the system. Systems underlie every phenomenon and all are part of a larger system. Systems stop functioning when an element is removed or changed significantly.

Procedures are framed for carrying for operating the processes.  There can be several tasks covered under one procedure. For the performance of each task there are work instructions which are required to be followed for efficiently carrying out the task. Processes, procedures and work instructions interact with each other for the smooth functioning of the system as shown in Fig 1.

Fig 1 interactions within a system


Procedures are important for every organization. They are frequently being called as standard operating practices or SOPs. They have been found to be of immense use for proper working, training of the personnel and favourable outcomes in the organization.  The procedures are an essential pre-requisite for the efficient working of the organization. Studies have shown that the procedures have significant potential to enable the organizations to improve quality of work without increasing the costs. The procedures are developed for providing clear guidance on how the process is to be operated and highlights the co-ordination needed for the smooth operation of the process. Procedure is also used as training guidelines for conducting training of the employees.

A procedure is a set of written instructions which document a routine or repetitive activity. It is a set of detailed written instructions to achieve uniformity of the performance of a specific function. It is a set of instructions which instruct the employees on how to accomplish a task effectively, efficiently and consistently. It is a set of instructions which addresses the ‘who, what, where and when’ of an activity. It is a document which describes the regularly recurring operations to ensure that the operations are carried out correctly (quality) and always in the same manner (consistency). Each procedure is specific to an operation and it describes all the activities necessary to complete the tasks in accordance with industry practices, regulatory norms, and the internal standards of the organization. It is a document which explains how to carry out a job. Implementation of the procedure ensures timeliness, consistency, technical excellence, and accountability of the process.

Procedures are written with the aim to provide the employees with all the information necessary to perform a job properly. They help to ensure that the activities for the proper functioning of the process are performed correctly and consistently, as variation can be very costly. Procedures also serve as a checklist for conducting reviews and audits. They serve as an explanation of steps in a process, so they can be reviewed in failure / adverse outcome during investigations. They are written to ensure safety and maximize operational and outcome requirements. They help the employees to focus on specific activities which lead toward goal achievement. They improve communication and teamwork among employees and the management. They help in the maintenance of the ‘best practices’.

Procedures can be used as a set of ‘performance standards’. They are important in establishing and enforcing work standards. They help to ensure that the same task is consistently performed by all the employees in the same way. At the same time they serve to define the acceptable level of performance for a task. They can also be used as ‘reference’ since they have the detailed information of the steps involved in a particular process. Hence, the procedures can be referred in case of any ambiguity. It is difficult to remember every step in correct order, more so in complicated and long processes and in such situations, procedures can be referred. Procedures also provide time-saving checklist to ensure that each step is correctly being followed.

Procedures can be used for ‘review’. They provide opportunity for critical review of each step thereby offers scope for improvement. They tell people what to look for when they audit the procedures and also serve as personal controls to avoid performing wrong steps. They serve as the basic record of how the task is performed which is critical for success. They also provide people with all the safety, health, environment and operational information necessary to perform a job properly.

Organization which follows procedures for its processes is a disciplined organization and can be depended upon. For the organizational customers, it means that quality standards exist in the organization.  Procedures propel the organization towards disciplined working and hence ensure success. Working with procedures can  create (i) efficiencies, and therefore profitability, (ii) consistency and reliability in production and service , (iii) fewer errors in all the areas, (iv) a way to resolve conflicts, (v) a healthy and safe environment, and (vi) a roadmap for how to resolve issues , and the removal of emotion from troubleshooting , thus allowing needed focus on solving the problems.

Procedure is step by step sequence of activities or course of actions with definite starts and endpoints. Procedures are followed to perform a task correctly. Repetitive procedures are called routines. Procedures are needed for several reasons such as (i) compliance as the procedures help in compliance of regulatory norms and industry standards, (ii) operation needs since the procedures ensure that the processes fundamental for the organizational success are properly performed in a consistent manner which meets the organization needs, (iii) managing risks, and (iv) continuous improvement.

Methodology of working with systems and procedures

Organization normally has its vision, mission and objectives. From these the goals of the organization are to flow. For achievements of the goals, the organization is required to have policies. For implementation of the policies, procedures are needed. Procedures are documents written to support various needs of the organization. They are designed to describe ‘who, what, where, when and why’ by establishing organizational accountability in support of the implementations of actions required for meeting the needs of the organization. The ‘how’ is further documented in detail by the units of the organization in the form of work instructions to support the procedures. Procedures play an important role in the systematic working. The key points with respect to the procedures are as follows.

  • For each job, there is a necessity to have written down work procedure and each individual activity is to have detailed written down work instructions. These work procedures and work instructions are to be revised regularly keeping in view the changing environment.
  • The work procedures and work instructions are also to define the person / persons who are to carry out the requirements of the work procedures or work instructions.
  • The work procedures and work instructions are to be made in full detail covering all the necessary requirements of the job in all the areas related to the job.
  • All the connected persons are to be thoroughly trained in the work procedures and the work instructions. For training, both the methods of class room training and the on the job training can be adopted.
  • Work procedures and work instructions are to be followed in totality without any deviations and with dedicated discipline. For this regular audit is to be carried out.
  • Proper record keeping is important as frequent analysis of the data contained in these records contributes greatly to the continuous improvement. Further records are evidence that work procedures and work instructions are being followed.

Benefits of working with systems and procedures

There are many benefits which the organization reaps when it works with systems and procedures. These are given below.

  • Working with systems and procedures provides the employees the necessary implements for doing their job efficiently. This leads to an improvement in the productivity of the organization since ‘One need not reinvent the wheel every time one starts an activity’.
  • Working with systems and procedures leads to consistency. Since the work is done as per written procedures without interference of individuals, there is consistency in the quality of the output.
  • Working with systems and procedures results into reduced learning curve for the new employees. Training time gets drastically reduced due to written down procedures.
  • Working with systems and procedures causes reduction in supervision. Since the work processes are carried out as per written procedures, the supervision required is very little. It frees the line managers to have time for some creative thinking which in turn brings in further improvement to the processes.
  • Management gets quick overview of the operations and the processes when the organization is working with systems and procedures. This assists in decision making process as well as in corrective and preventive actions.
  • When the organization is working with systems and procedures then all the transactions and dealings with stakeholders are carried out in a fair and unbiased manner.
  • When the organization is working with systems and procedures, then the stress level of the employees comes down drastically and the relaxed employees are able to give better output. This improves the quality of life of the employees and creates an environment of further improvement.
  • Working with systems and procedures brings disciplined working in the organization and all the advantages associated with it.

In an organization which is not habitual to working in an organized manner, it is always difficult to put systems and procedures in place. Initiating the employees in this type of working is not easy at all. A lot of efforts and hard work is needed in the initial stage. Further, this can be achieved only with the active support of the management. But once the benefits of systematic working start flowing, then everyone in the organization realizes the advantage of this.

Comments on Post (2)


    In addition to the above, many more factors should be considered to meet the expectation of the stakeholders. This has been very nicely described my Michael Porter’s National Diamond concept where he talks about the Factor Condition,Demand Condition, Firm Strategy, Structure and Rivalry, Related and Supporting Industries, Government and Chance. The above concept promulgated by Mr. Satyendra is very old concept. This concept is no more working in view of the current Global Dynamics where the Globe is your market. Countries are opening its market under WTO norms or they are making regional Free Trade regions. If a company needs to survive in this globally dynamic business environment, it must fall in line with Global companies. This is possible only through Michael Potter’s National Diamond framework for development.

    • Posted: 28 June, 2013 at 17:17 pm
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    • Satyendra

      I am not in agreement with Shri Prasad. In case there are no systems and procedures then there will only be chaos since all the processes will go haywire. Further systems and procedures are always dynamic since they undergo revisions to suit the change in the environment. Even most economically and industrially advanced countries have faith in systems and procedures.

      • Posted: 29 June, 2013 at 01:21 am
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