UNITED STATES—Productivity and efficiency are essential elements of a high-performing office. Unfortunately, many businesses find themselves stuck in ruts. These ruts, which are underscored by excessive friction like a lack of communication and planning, become debilitating for businesses. Left unaddressed, they can lead to declining revenue and sinking employee morale. But it doesn’t have to be this way. By paying attention to your office workflow, you can streamline processes and drive productivity up.
What is Workflow?
We could sit here and talk about how workflows are orchestrated patterns of business activities that are empowered by systematic organization and…yada, yada, yada! But let’s keep it simple and straight to the point.
Workflows are basically the way people in your office get work done. They can be illustrated as a chain of steps that must be completed in sequential order from start to completion.
“Think of it literally as work flowing from one stage to the next, whether that’s through a colleague, tool, or another process,” business operations expert Benjamin Brandall writes. “You can execute a full workflow alone (like writing, editing and publishing a blog post), or it can involve multiple people (like invoicing a client).”
Some businesses refer to workflows as standard operating procedures, or SOPs. But regardless of the terminology, the goal is the same: To bring order to multi-step processes so they can be completed efficiently and predictably without variance.
If your business lacks workflows or SOPs – or if they haven’t been updated in years – then there’s a pretty good chance that you’re not maximizing productivity or efficiency.
5 Workflow Improvement Tips
As you look for ways to improve your office workflows, keep these simple tips in mind:
- Identify Where You Need Workflows
The first step is to analyze your current processes to identify areas where workflows are needed. Generally speaking, a workflow should be used when there are two or more steps that must be completed in sequential fashion. It’s especially important if the process gets handed off between multiple individuals.
- Break Processes Down Into Steps
Once you identify a process that’s ideal for workflow optimization, the next objective is to break it down into steps. The smaller and more specific you can get with each step, the better. Specificity always produces better results. Here’s an example:
- Vague Workflow: Write a blog post > Publish the post > Share on social media
- Specific Workflow: Brainstorm topic ideas > Choose a topic > Write the rough draft > Edit the draft > Make revisions > Conduct SEO checklist > Design and add graphics > Load into WordPress > Publish > Create social media posts > Share post on all social media platforms > Monitor comments
Do you see how much different a specific workflow is? It leaves nothing to be questioned. Every step is clearly outlined for precise execution.
- Automate When Possible
Trying to efficiently perform dozens of tasks in a sequential order can be painstaking. That’s why you should automate as many steps as you can using a workflow engine.
According to Box, “A workflow engine is a software program that ensures the tasks associated with a workflow get completed in the appropriate order. The engine understands the sequence in which tasks need to be completed and ensures that as soon as one task is completed, the next one starts.”
Automation can take some time to set up on the front end, but it’s always worth it in the long run. Approach this phase of the process with diligence.
- Assign the Right People
Not every task can be automated. There are certain parts of every workflow that must be handled by skilled members of your team. The key is to assign the right tasks to the right people. In addition to skill, you should also consider availability. After all, the last thing you want is for a workflow to get hung up because of one person’s schedule or flexibility.
- Gather Feedback and Iterate
Don’t worry about creating the perfect workflow the first time around. The great thing about workflows is that you can gather feedback, study what works, and iterate. Over time, your workflows will become more efficient and productive. It just takes time!
Give Your Biz a Boost
Getting your company’s workflows properly optimized and executed could change everything for you. As your business becomes more productive and efficient, it’ll pave the way for higher revenue, greater profitability, and, ultimately, more innovation and growth.