workflow

workflow processes toast

Business processes and … toast!

In an earlier post we talked about the importance of business processes in efficient communication. This blog post will introduce a fun talk on a few methods of optimizing these very business processes using simple visualization.

Workflow processes often stem from long-formed habits over an initial need to get something done. So these processes aren’t built with efficiency in mind but with a singular task in mind. Add on that people working together making unspoken assumptions and this leads to misunderstandings and energy lost backpaddling and adjusting direction.

Visualizing processes and aligning understandings is very powerful in making your team run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Take something as simple as making toast. Something we probably all do in the morning. You may assume there is only one way of making toast and your colleague making toast will look the same as when you do it. But think again! There are so many variables. What do you do first, how long do you toast the bread for? What do you put on it? What kind of toast do you use?

In this inspiring and fun Ted talk, Tom Wujec shares his findings of the many methods of identifying the toast making process through visualization using real life examples.

It’s all about breaking down complex processes into simple steps and re-assembling them in the right order into a good process. Be this by using simple drawings or in a team using sticky notes.

Making toast might be an easy everyday example and you can easily see how this gains relevance and importance to business processes.

How many different interpretations of the same process are in your team?

What angles can the individual team members bring to enrich the process?

Does everybody aim towards the same outcome?

effective communication

Clear workflows for effective communication

In an earlier blog post, we talked about the three most important components for efficient teams – workplace flexibility, team communication and challenge team members. In this post we will explore the importance of clear workflows for effective communication.

Miscommunication means that individual team members might be having different interpretations of the task at hand. Worst case scenario is that everybody is working towards different goals. But miscommunication can also mean that everybody does things differently and makes assumptions that aren’t true. Or things are left undone with no clear responsibilities and it’s only discovered late in the project. Things like this can cost you over $26,000 a year*.

In the midst of every day business it’s not always easy to have oversight of everything that’s going on in different parts of the team. Tight deadlines, fire fighting. One exercise to help you put on top of your teams efficiency is to draw out work flows with individual tasks and team members involved. Putting these together take some time in the front but will uncover things you weren’t aware your team was spending time on. It is very powerful to compare all tasks side by side and understand how they create a workflow with inter-dependent processes.

Business rules are the foundation for any workflow management

Before we go talking more about workflow management tools, it’s important to highlight that while the right tool can be very powerful in enabling team efficiency, it has to be based on sound business rules. The workflow management tool is the facilitator, the katalyst. It can only accelerate what you define. Therefore understanding and defining those business rules has to be the first step.

workflow katalyst

Implement a fancy tool and use non-optimized processes? You will turbo-charge the non-optimized business.

The thing is: you already HAVE workflow processes and rules in place. These processes and rules may have been intentionally set or most likely have been created ad hoc and are often outdated. Out of need to get work done day in day out, employees and team members started using and following some kind of processes and in the absence of set rules found their own way of making things work. Often these rules are created with a single task in mind and don’t have the foresight of creating efficiency.

To improve efficiency, it is important to identify and map out those existing processes into a workflow. Seeing this in all together will enable you to identify areas of opportunities and conflict. The next step is to define and implement solutions and improvements by adjusting those processes. These are the theoretical steps. Practice may be a bit more complex as it involves team dynamics, natural resistance to change, big organisations and different team objectives.

 

Important things to look out for when going through the exercise of defining business processes and workflows:

business processes

  1. Neutral facilitator (internal or external) with experience
    Often the easiest way is to work with an outsider to help navigate the process as he/she comes without historic baggage and has a neutral relationship to all parties.
  2. Working with all stakeholders early on
    The key to easy user adoption is early engagement. Though it might not be looking forward to having potentially uncomfortable conversations with your own team and other teams that you’re working with, it’s best to get everybody on board and on the same page early. Working in silo and getting buy-in later is near impossible, while you’re more likely to getting support for working together towards a solution that will help everyone’s pain points.
  3. Documentation
    Avoid any potential misunderstandings by documenting processes and workflows you discuss and circulating them post-meetings. A cross-team meeting might also be a good platform to share the step by step progress and outcomes.