Workflow Systems that Work: Part Three

This is the last in a series of posts on workflow systems. The first post talked about my first rule: simplicity. The next post talked about my second rule: transparency. This post will cover my last two rules for workflow systems: accessibility and team orientation.

Good workflow systems provide the framework for people to know the logistics of their work: what they’re working on and when. To accomplish this, the workflow system has to be accessible. In the first post about simplicity, I explained that they have to be understandable, which is definitely one type of accessibility. But with this rule, I’m speaking more about the technology you use to implement your day-to-day task tracking system. People need to be able to access the workflow system whenever they need or want to. It needs to be always available to them.

For my team, we use google docs for this aspect of our workflow system. People can access the task tracking sheet throughout the work day or from off-site. One of my team members uses color-coding within the column that identifies her tasks. Light green means it’s done; light yellow means she’s working on it now; no color means she hasn’t yet gotten to it. The workflow tracking system is so helpful to her, she’s modifying it to help her use it more effectively! You know what else? By doing this, she’s introduced another aspect to the tracking sheet that provides simple, transparent information about her work back to the rest of the team! This makes me really happy, and it’s in this way that the team helps build upon our systems.

Which leads me to my fourth rule: team orientation. This one seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes we need to be reminded of why we do things. Workflow systems are for the team. They need to serve the needs of everyone. If a workflow system helps a manager understand the workload and assign the projects, but doesn’t help the team members orient themselves to their workload and their contribution to the team, it’s not doing it’s job. If a workflow helps team members know what they’re supposed to be doing, but doesn’t help a manager strategically decide about projects or assign tasks to team members, it’s not doing it’s job. That’s why there are multiple components to workflow systems (I outlined the ones I use for my team in the first post).

If you’re not sure if your workflow system is meeting everyone’s needs, ask your team. Workflow systems should help every member of the team understand what the team is doing, what the mission and goals are, who is doing what, and when projects are due. Workflow systems are visionary and logistical. They should open lines of communication and empower everyone.

Simplicity, transparency, accessibility, and team orientation are my guiding principles for my team’s workflow system. What are yours? I’d love to hear more about how your team works.

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