Process, Workflow, Activity and Action

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In this training, we will explain the words process, workflow, activity and action.


The good use of these words will make the communication easy when talking about business process management.


To help us, let’s take an example: the chocolate chip cookie recipe!

Make cookies 🍪


  • Prepare 225g softened butter.
  • Prepare 110g caster sugar.
  • Prepare 275g plain flour.
  • Prepare 75g white or milk chocolate chips.
  • Heat the oven to 190C.



  • Cream the butter in a large bowl with a wooden spoon or in a stand mixer until it is soft.
  • Add the sugar.
  • Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  • Sift in the flour.
  • Add the chocolate chips.
  • Bring the mixture together with your hands until it forms a dough.



  • Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls
  • Place them slightly apart from each other on a baking sheet
  • Flatten the balls a little with the palm of your hand
  • Bake them in the oven for around 10-12 mins until they are golden brown and slightly firm on top.
  • Leave the cookies on a cooling rack for around 15 mins before serving.

It’s very appetizing! 😋


As seen in a previous training, a process is a set of activities that transforms inputs into outputs.


In our case, the process is: “Make cookies”.


The inputs are the ingredients. The outputs are the cookies themselves. 


Note that the objective of the process is clearly indicated in its title: to make cookies!


To actually make the cookies, we must perform three activities.


The activities are : “Preparation”, “Cooking” and “Baking”.


We can see that the process does not specify exactly how to make the cookies. This is the job of the workflow.


The workflow is defined as the specified way to carry out the activities.


Therefore a workflow is made of actions.


When the actions are done, the activities are completed and so is the process.


In the case of the cookies recipe, the workflow is the list of the 16 actions to be completed.


Note that an action title starts with a verb, while an activity title starts with a noun.


Actions can be grouped together in a way that each group corresponds to an activity.


Therefore, a group of actions is a list of specific actions to be completed in order to realize a specific activity.


As we can see, it’s easy to confuse process and workflow, as well as activity and action.


To sum up, “process” and “activity” are used at macro level, when you look at the interactions with the rest of the organization or when you talk about business strategy. This is about the what and why.


“Workflow” and “action “are used when you describe how the process is realized.


Note: “workflow” is referred to as “procedure” in the ISO documentation.


Now that we have followed this training, we understand the exact ISO 9000:2015 definitions.

  • Process: set of interrelated or interacting activities that use inputs to deliver an intended result
  • Procedure [workflow]: specified way to carry out an activity or a process.


We will see how activities can be interrelated and interacted in another training!


Geeers tips

  • You can design your custom workflows with a simple visual editor
  • Actions can be grouped together to match with activities

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