WHAT IS WORKFLOW?
Workflows are everywhere, even outside of work and you're using them even if you think you're not. Let's delve into the basics of how to use workflows to solve your problems.
Can Workflows solve my problems
A Workflow is a sequence of tasks that processes the desired result. Workflows occur across every kind of business and industry. Anytime data is passed between humans and/or systems, a workflow is created. Workflows are the paths that describe how something goes from being undone to done, or raw to processed.
You might know Workflow as.....
some other names for workflow used in business but basically they are the same thing
- Business process management
- Process Improvement Management
- Continuous Improvement Management
5 quick examples of Workflow
- Paying a bill or invoice - receiving, prioritizing, and paying a bill.
- Changing the oil in your car - being aware of when you should change your oil thru all the steps of buying supplies, steps to change it yourself, or take it to a professional.
- Hiring a new employee - posting a job, selecting candidates, interviewing, and selecting all the way thru to onboarding.
- Repairs- step by step guides to building or repairing as part of your home Maintenace.
- Making a sale- Customer management from finding leads, proposals, handling objections to completing the sale.
Are Workflows Repeatable?
Properly optimized workflows are repeatable but the frequency of the workflow cycle will depend on EACH WORKFLOW, such as daily, weekly, monthly, or annually.
If you want to improve your people then improve your processes
Workflow Improvement......Why should I spend time creating workflows?
The origins of workflows can be traced back, unsurprisingly, to Henry Gantt. Yes, that's the same person responsible for Gantt charts!
The industrial revolution was the catalyst for smart thinkers like Gantt to come up with efficient ways of organizing a workforce. Business owners were suddenly able to mobilize huge workforces with powerful machinery, but needed to answer a question before they knew exactly the best way to harness that energy:
- What's the most efficient way to get this work done?
- Breaking that question down, Gantt concluded he needed to know:
- The exact jobs being done
- Who is responsible for what
- The time each task takes
- By answering those questions and structuring the answers into a chart or process, you get a workflow.
As the old adage goes, “you can't manage what you don't measure”. By measuring the work that needs to be done, you can manage how optimally it's executed. Otherwise, you have no idea what's going on or where the bottleneck in your team's activity lies.
You have to know and believe that taking hours to create workflows saves weeks and months in the future but more importantly reduces stress
The Benefits of creating Workflows
- You create a repeatable set of tasks to complete the desired outcome consistently.
- You identify redundant tasks or find ways to optimize individual steps.
- You can delegate tasks much more effectively and efficiently when a workflow has been created and optimized.
Should a Workflow be documented?
Simply Yes. It doesn't matter whether its pictures or text, but documenting the steps gives you,
- a better overview.
- an opportunity for others to review and suggest improvements.
- a map of directions to change, update, and reorder.
- a way to post links as part of the workflow
- A documented workflow is crucial especially when trying to complete a complex and rarely performed project that isn't instinctual.
- Remember documented workflows should be as simple as possible to follow.
The basics of creating a WORKFLOW
A whole book can be written about creating a workflow but here are the basics steps.
- What is the desired outcome - as specifically as possible write the desired outcome
- What people or departments are involved - list all those involved by departments or titles, not names.
- Write down the general steps as clearly as possible from beginning to the desired outcome
- Review each step in detail as if you were writing it for a person who had never worked in your industry before.
- Check to make sure you’ve added links, websites, passwords, etc. ( at least say the step needs a password if you’re concerned about security)
- Get input from the people involved in the workflow. This is very important as they may be doing the work in that particular step that you may take for granted
- Look for ways to optimize such as delegating, eliminating or automating a step. Automating may mean getting an email alert when inventory is a low or automatic notification when a step in the process is completed. (automation is a whole chapter on its own)
- Implement the process and get input from those performing the tasks on the clarity of instructions. Expect to make tweaks when you implement
- Review the process by starting at step 1 above, at least annually even if you think you’ve perfected the workflow. New technologies may come along that can eliminate or optimize steps.