Difference between Directive and Policy

Key difference: A directive may establish policy, assign responsibilities, define objectives and delegate authority to those working in and with the authoritative figure. A policy, on the other hand, is more of a guideline or a principle or a rule. It is mainly used to regulate organizational affairs. They are a type of position statement that state where the organization stands on an important issue.

Directives and policies are two terms that are quite often adopted by institutions or organizations. So, when do they adopt which and what exactly is the difference between the two?

Dictionary.com defines directive as:

  • Serving to direct; directing: a directive board.
  • Psychology. Pertaining to a type of psychotherapy in which the therapist actively offers advice and information rather than dealing only with information supplied by the patient.
  • An authoritative instruction or direction; specific order: a new directive by the President on foreign aid.

While, policies are defined as:

  • An act or a manner of proceeding in any action or process; conduct.
  • A particular course or mode of action.
  • Any given mode of conducting legal, parliamentary, or other business, especially litigation and judicial proceedings.
  • The sequence of actions or instructions to be followed in solving a problem or accomplishing a task.
  • Also called subprogram. A group of statements that may be used at one or more points in a computer program.

An organization with have numerous policies in place and may issue another policy or a directive every once in a while. The main difference between the two is that a policy is more of a principle or rule, which is adopted in order to bring about some change. While, a directive is mainly an order, usually issued by an authoritative figure.

A directive may establish policy, assign responsibilities, define objectives and delegate authority to those working in and with the authoritative figure. A directive may establish or describe a policy, a program and/or an organization. For example: directive to set up a government entity, directive to set up a local subsidy, directive to set up an overseas office, directive to reduce wastage, directive for recycling, etc.

A policy, on the other hand, is more of a guideline or a principle or a rule. It is mainly used to regulate organizational affairs. They are a type of position statement that state where the organization stands on an important issue. It may also state how an organization intends to move ahead on an issue. For example: “We have a very strict policy against those that steal office supplies” or “The company is adopting a new policy for reducing environmental waste.”

Essentially, a directive is an executive order that must be followed by the organization or the responsible party. A directive may even call for development and implementation of a policy. On the other hand, polices are often used for decision making, hence a company policy that is in place may call for an issue of a directive. For example, in the case of the environmental waste policy, a directive may be issued for the set up of a new job post that will be responsible for implementing the policy.

Image Courtesy: mitrefinch.co.uk, ctemps.org

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