You need to create a workflow for your business not only to help you quickly start operations, but also to give you a blueprint for creating and executing new processes as your business grows. Getting work done shouldn’t require even more work. This might sound like a clever piece of wordplay, but what it really means is that you and your employees should be able to get down to business, especially when you’re just getting if off the ground. How best can you deliver a service or design a product, without wasting time on the logistics of collaborating within, or between, teams? The purpose of workflow, therefore, is to establish a protocol or ‘pattern of activity’ that can get the desired work done in an efficient, streamlined, and resourceful manner. Working out the Work Flow The benefits of establishing a workflow are many. Each of these benefits, from increased employee autonomy and accountability to improved communication is a result of good process workflow design. Below is a list of steps every business can take to design and implement workflows.
Within and across teams and departments, employees have a series of project and/or programme specific tasks. Each employee’s task-sets, in turn, are affected by or have an impact on that of their fellow employees. To ensure that everyone understands their functional contribution to the execution of a project or the implementation of a programme, engage in a process mapping exercise. Here all the concerned stakeholders can get together and outline the timeline of the project at hand, and the various actors and tasks involved. This exercise invests each individual with a specific set of responsibilities and establishes accountability. Employees also become aware of the relative nature of their tasks—instead of seeing said tasks in isolation, they come to comprehend their interdependence, and start to function as cohesive units working towards a common goal (rather than as single individuals focussing on discrete tasks).
It is also important to create and maintain a manual or a ‘tool-kit’ that visually depicts this process. Employees then have something to refer to, if they’re ever in doubt about what a particular task entails, resulting in greater self-reliance. In the long run, having this information literally at their fingertips eliminates the ‘work’ of figuring out how to go about your work. Process documents also entail forms and paperwork that are necessary for carrying out a task. Part of the documentation process could consist of collating and specifying the location/s of these forms, so that no time is lost hunting them down.
Workflow automation: Where possible, try and automate workflow so that when one task is finished, the necessary people are notified and/or the next stage of the process is set in motion. This prevents unnecessary time lags.
Cloud computing: An increasingly popular way of decreasing turn-around-time and improving collaboration between employees is through cloud computing. Cloud computing reduces the amount of time spent waiting for feedback, and easily integrates with online workflow software. Employees can thus experience the collaborative nature of business workflows in a cohesive manner.
Regardless of the size of the organisation or the scope of the project at hand, the advantages of establishing, documenting, and even automating workflow are evident. While workflows can and do emerge organically, it is takes deliberate workflow management to yield sustainable, scalable, and systematised workflows.