You get a spreadsheet report by email every Friday. It shows your revenue numbers, the number of orders and other key metrics for your business. It’s important stuff. And Jonathan does a great job putting it together.
However, Jonathan is sick for a few days. And the report doesn’t come out. Turns out, he’s the only one that knows how to do it. Everyone trusts Jonathan – that’s not the problem. But there’s no backup plan to getting your key results.
All of the past reports are in your knowledge management system, so you have the historical record. But no one knows how to actually put the report together. This is a workflow problem.
In the business context, there’s a tension between the way things are done and the way things are supposed to be done. There’s a tension between how your team functionally operates and how you’re supposed to operate. You may have written processes, but what’s the use if everyone does it a different way anyway? It could be redesigned each time every time.
How do you change the culture around your workflow processes? There were a lot of problems with the workflow that Jonathan was using, even if his reports were factually correct.
In this post, we’ll talk about the steps you should take to implement a better workflow process that will work each time.
Change in an organization can be an emotional rollercoaster. It’s equally exciting, frustrating and confusing all at the same time. The most important thing is to listen first.
Before implementing widespread workflow changes, listen and understand how and why things are currently done.
This will take time, research and probably a few coffee meetings to openly discuss the processes.
Change may need to happen person by person, depending on the interest, investment and skill level involved.
For instance, if Jonathan was the creator or instigator of the current method, it’ll take more time for him to come around. Listening to his perspective will be paramount before making any workflow changes.
If your team works collaboratively on creating the process, then it’s more likely to be adopted. More people will be aware of how it will go and mistakes can quickly be identified.
In Jonathan’s case, it’s important to ask him to write down each step and then have it reviewed by a peer or a manager or both. They may provide additional insight on a faster way to do it or offer another key metric that needs to be captured.
Working collaboratively on the workflow process will make it stickier.
Once you have workflow processes in place, only respond if the requests come through the approved process.
If Jonathan works on the report, let him know that the report won’t be considered complete unless every step of the workflow process is created. This may cause a few headaches at the beginning, but it’ll smooth out in the long run.
New habits are tough to form. It could even be two months before the new process takes hold!
But if you abandon it halfway through, it’ll never keep.
Part of the problem in Jonathan’s report was that there was no transparency and not a good space for feedback.
For all of the great things email has done, it’s not a great way to assign work, especially within the company.
Email lacks transparency and clarity.
Message may be sent as one-offs or someone accidentally forgets to be cc’d. There’s the crisis point between hitting “reply” or “reply all” and flooding everyone’s inbox with useless junk.
In a project management system, team members can balance out priorities and also gauge how many similar requests are being made.
You can’t do that with email.
Clear workflow processes should have an element of transparency to them.
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If your team finds themselves constantly re-inventing the wheel on every similar project, then you have a workflow issue.
In fact, processes should be repeatable, but easily editable over time. Tweaks should be allowed.
Printed checklists or Excel spreadsheets make this more difficult. No one knows when the process has changed.
Having templates in project management software like ClickUp makes your processes repeatable. Just choose the right project or task template, add in your checklist or to-do list and you’re ready to go.
I’ve been at a few companies where we used knowledge management systems. These were great for the latest company memos, press releases or historical documentation on ad campaigns for instance.
But they aren’t so hot for everyday work processes. Why not? Because they’re hard to assign and use again and again. Often you have to copy and paste to make the knowledge management system entry repeatable.
So your processes have to be documented in a usable way. Project management software provides a central place for your team communication and storage for your processes like these.
Then you can use them in conjunction with tasks and other projects, and they’re not siloed far away in your knowledge management system.
The next time around, Jonathan has more accountability on his report. He can check off each item in the project management software system, share it with everyone and even set due dates for when the next one needs to be finished.
Everyone can comment and provide feedback without blowing up the inbox.
Jonathan feels good about the next time he’s out sick or on vacation–he doesn’t have to work when he’s away. Someone else on his team is familiar with the process and can recreate it.
The team is on the same page with no details falling through the cracks.
Does your team know their processes? Or better yet, is there more than one person who knows the process?
How can you make changes to your workflow processes to enrich your organization?