Picture all of the steps, procedures, and processes that go on where you work. Imagine them running optimally. How do you picture the connections between processes? Is everything a separate, distinct system with no connection to any other part of the workplace? Or does everything connect in some way to everything else, whether through procedures or just communication and visibility? When most people imagine the perfect flow of labor in their workplace, they picture connections, transparency, and high-speed communication. Not a group of separate, non-communicating departments. This connection between processes is called “workflow.” Understanding it can increase the efficiency of a workplace immeasurably.
What parts make up a workflow
The first and possibly the most important part of workflow is the processes involved. For example, if you work at a business that makes cars, the ideal flow of the various parts of cars from separate chunks of metal to working vehicles would involve inspections, assembly, painting, safety checks, and a whole list of other, smaller processes that would combine into an ideal workflow. The same would be true for a law firm, or a grocery store, or any business that relies on work getting done as efficiently as possible. There is inventory to be managed, customers to be served, income to be accounted for… and it all needs to connect as smoothly as possible.
The other vital part of workflow is communication. While it is possible for individual processes to be completed efficiently, a workplace without communication is going to run into trouble when it’s time to bring the processes together into a whole. Unless of course they have an open and easy-to-use communication system that lets the whole workplace know what’s going on everywhere else. Nobody wants their workflow interrupted by scheduling conflicts, errors, misconceptions and other problems that could have been solved by communication. In the workplace, knowing is as important as doing.
Making a workflow for your business
So how do you implement optimal workflow in your workplace? It’s going to require planning, communication, and of course a lot of hard work. Integrating the many processes of a busy workplace into one smooth whole is a feat of co-ordination that doesn’t take place overnight. The best place to start is to sit down with the people who are in charge of your various processes and figure out exactly what your most ambitious goal could be, and then begin your workflow revamp with the end in mind.
It can seem like a daunting task to bring so many different people, departments, jobs, processes, and goals together into an integrated whole. However, you can be assured that it’s worth it. The increased output that your company will experience will quickly lead to an increase in income. Your whole company will benefit from a more efficient and more enjoyable workplace—people like to feel that their work is part of a larger whole. Next time you want to improve your work life, have a look at your workflow and see what we can do for you, to help improve it. You might be surprised at how good things can be!
A version of this article was originally published as Workflow Worries Are Justified on August 12, 2013.