Your workflow is meant to be an aid. It’s meant to make life easier and it’s a synergistic whole that impacts the fate of the projects you’re working on. One of the smartest ways to improve your business is to optimize your workflow. This is because it’s what determines how things actually get done in your business. It’s the system that determines how inputs ultimately become outputs. Your productivity is hinged on it.
But as you know, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” Furthermore, it’s vital that you are able to periodically fine-tune your workflow and cadence of productivity by identifying the facets that are functional and dysfunctional. Naturally, it’s only after identifying them that you can fix them.
Let’s get to it.
How to Identify Dysfunctional Aspects in Your Workflow
When a person is sick, there are almost always symptoms that can be noticed, right? The most telling sign that certain aspects of your workflow are suboptimal is being shown in the results you’re currently generating. The results show that your business or organization, just like a human being, may be “sick.” It’s the same with dysfunctional workflows. Such show some negatively impacted symptoms, such as:
- Silo thinking
- Spreadsheet mania
- Process variation
- Information starvation
- Email overload
- Frequent complaints by team members
- Substandard outputs
- Missed deliverables
- Inadequate scoping of projects
- Inaccurate time estimates
- Fractured communication
Let’s check out a few of the symptoms.
When members of your team start thinking of their work as separate (at times superior) to that of others and making decisions that do not take into consideration how the whole team is affected, then you have silo thinking. It’s a dangerous limitation that can at times guarantee suboptimization or, even worse, failure. It’s likely the reason why so many companies look for organization design consulting services, i.e., sometimes it takes an outsider to pick apart your business and understand what needs to be worked on.
Spreadsheets have their value. They are great for certain tasks. “Certain tasks” is the keyword. So, be wary if members of your team start using spreadsheets as a panacea. This happens in some businesses and teams. In truth, they may be great for presenting some vital static reports. If you want a smooth-functioning, dynamic workflow, you’d need to keep spreadsheets in their place. There is an awesome workflow management software that’d help make your processes more fluid and efficient.
The essence of a workflow is that there are optimal, predefined processes for carrying out tasks. Because they are predefined, work can be done more efficiently. Members of a team or freelancers do not have to crack their brains to determine how tasks are to be done. When there’s process variation, there’s no predefined flow, or the flow is inadequate, or it’s being ignored. The result is variation. Different team members devise different ways of carrying out the same task.
The provision of adequate information is critical to the smooth functioning of any workflow (especially since IT is fastly becoming so integral to business). If certain parts of the flow or certain team members do not have access to information that they need to perform their tasks adequate, the workflow cannot but be bogged down, ultimately, this starvation will result in a host of serious problems. It’s vital, then, that access to information is integral to your workflow.
Do you still recall when getting email was an exciting novelty? You probably told your friends and family members about the emails you’re getting. Now, everybody is drowning in email. They are great. No doubt. But, for workflow management, there’s something like too much of a good thing. At times, team members send so many emails, back and forth (or slack messages). This is motion. It’s not necessarily indicative of progress. It’s a sign that something is not right. A redesign is advisable so that work can be facilitated with as little email as possible. The goal is to get the work done, not write about it.
In conclusion, there are three main steps to take to ensure that the identification process above becomes a tool for improving your business. They are:
- Map your current workflow
- Analyze each facet’s contribution
If the workflow has been mapped already, you can proceed to the analysis stage. You may assume that you and your team know your workflow, but it’s always helpful to have it documented. A central part of the analysis is to ask if that facet of your workflow is truly adding value to the chain or is it a constraint. Those that are deficient can be removed or improved.