What is workflow? If you work in a professional setting, you likely have some sense of how tasks move through your office, whether you work largely in isolation or are part of a team, while industrial workplaces often rely on very complex workflows including long-distance supply chains, specialized skills, and much more. Regardless of the setting, though, a workflow helps everyone within an organization fulfill their responsibilities, can boost efficiency, and even be used to meet quality management challenges. And, if you’re trying to optimize your business’s workflow, there are valuable strategies that can help you do it.
Chart It Out
One of the most traditional ways of managing your business’s workflow is to create a workflow diagram. These diagrams allow organizations to see exactly how tasks happen, and, more importantly, map out how they should be happening. Too often, businesses set out to create a workflow diagram and, in the process, they realize that they aren’t handling tasks in the most streamlined manner. When you put your workflow on paper, you have the opportunity to clarify these processes and improve them.
Automate What You Can
Though workflow in its simplest sense just refers to the path that tasks take through the organization, the modern approach to workflow includes finding ways to make those pathways less cumbersome, and one way to do that is by automating elements of the process. This can be done in any number of ways, but in professional settings it often means using a workflow software to automate basic tasks.
Within a project or document management framework, some commonly automated tasks include document routing, generating alerts, and task management. These platforms may even use rules-based logic to support automations, so that tasks aren’t trapped in a one size fits all loop.
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
One of the most common myths about workflow optimization is that it only needs to be done once. In reality, though, workflow optimization is an ongoing process that needs to change with your business. That means adapting the processes based on new technology, new staff, or organization growth, and you can’t change everything at once. Often you need to change one element, work with this adjustment for a while, and then make a new adjustment. There are a lot of opportunities for improvement, but they need to be handled discreetly.
A Big Picture Process
Perhaps the most important thing to understand about workflow optimization is that the entire process is about seeing the big picture – and not everyone is good at taking that view. In fact, in most organizations, the goal of an efficient workflow is avoiding the big picture. The individual only needs to excel at their particular set of tasks and only project managers or other supervisors have a sense of how everything comes together. That’s not ideal during optimization, however, because often the problems or inefficiencies at hand often don’t become evident until the different players enter into conversation with each other.
If you haven’t considered how different aspects of your work fit together, now is the time to make a move. Remember, as easy as it is to get trapped into old patterns and inefficient workflows, the challenge of breaking out of them is worth it when you see the resulting transformation.