Set and Forget
In a perfect world, you would set up an automated workflow for nearly every process or task and then never worry about it again.
But it’s an imperfect world and workflows, like everything else, need time and attention to work as they should. Delays and bottlenecks happen, approvals don’t happen on time and files get mis-filed.
That should not discourage you from implementing and automating workflows as best you can. When they work, they really do make your job easier.
Here are a few tips and best-practices; I hope they help make your work life just a little bit easier.
1. Plan, Map & Prioritize
Plan, map and prioritize your workflow. Things can get complicated. There are a LOT of moving parts and multiple steps. Map the workflow to plan out the “who, what, when and where”. Dive right in – maybe on some post-it notes that you can physically arrange and rearrange on your desk. Once it’s done, put it in writing so everyone involved can see it. Which steps are integral to the job at hand?
Remember, it’s really important to plan out how each step impacts the process and make sure that the people involved understand that the workflow depends on them getting their tasks accomplished on time. Bottlenecks and delays affect the final outcome.
2. Automate Repeating Tasks
What do you do again and again? Is there a way to automate the process or even one or two steps in the process? Taking the time to set up automations will save you time and energy in the long run. Talk with your team and get their input; brainstorming is a great way to problem solve.
3. Search Out Bottlenecks
There will be bottlenecks; try not to be one! Do the people responsible for each step understand how their role impacts the process? Give each person the tools they need to get their task done. Make sure that they are receiving the correct notifications – especially if notifications are automatic.
Check in with your team to make sure the workflow works. Listen to their input and ideas.
4. Always Have a Back-Up Plan
Always add steps for “failures”. What if something is not approved on time, or the draft needs extensive edits? Things go wrong. “Expect the unexpected” is wise advice. Plan for the most likely eventualities and you’ll be able to remain calm when things don’t go according to plan.
5. Learn From Your Mistakes
There will be mistakes and hidden challenges. Plan for failures and make sure you learn from them. Reevaluate the process and update when necessary. Optimize the workflow if it is not flowing. Departures, promotions, and adding new staff members should initiate a process review.
6. Use Workflow Automations to Your Advantage
You’ve heard it; work smarter, not harder. Embrace workflow automations. If you put in the effort, you will reap the benefits. You won’t exactly get to set and forget, but you will see that automations do free-up a lot of your workload.