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If You’re Not Designing Your Workflow, You’re Missing Out

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I love well-organized drawers. Everything in its place. And the same goes for well-designed organizations—except instead of just things, it’s how work is conducted.

A piece from the website ITProPortal explains why you should design your workflow with clear communication in mind. To quote from the article:

There are many different ways to organize your team, but no matter which you choose, communication is key. By thoughtfully organizing the information flow, both within your team and between departments, you can ensure that your team is focusing their time and energy where it belongs—on design. Implementing tools and habits such as kanban, daily standups, simplified documentation, a dedicated design room, and encouraging regular interaction between improve the quality of your team’s work while freeing you from the burden of micromanaging every project.

In truth, that’s not an exact quote. I pulled out the word “design” in a few places and made other small tweaks. Because although the author is talking about his work at a software startup, the concepts apply to any organization.

For example, consider the advice to thoughtfully organize the information flow within your team and between departments. This seems obvious, but chances are you don’t have any organization to the information flow. Instead, it’s just email. It’s documents attached to email. Maybe somebody got tired of one particular process and made a form, which, insanely, is a downloadable document.

Good workflow is associated with good information flow. Imagine how much better your company would operate if there was less back-and-forth, especially with routine activities.


© Flickr user Dave Fayram

There’s more good advice in the article. Here are the five tips, re-applied for any organization.

1. Plan in Public

The word “kanban” is Japanese for “billboard.” The concept here is that instead of keeping the status of projects under wraps, you put them up on the wall (or in an electronic system) for everyone to see. This doesn’t need to be complicated, but it’s surprisingly effective. Instead of having to ask how things are going, you can just look.

Kanban Board

© Flickr user Oliver Tacke

Of course, you can create a more sophisticated system. It might cover different pieces, various stages in the overall workflow, or track individual contributions. But the first step is to get the information out in public. Try a kanban in your company.

2. Daily Standup

We’ve talked before about the value of having standing meetings. And yes, that means standing up during the meeting that reoccurs on a standing basis.. This is a great way to help people feel more connected to what’s going on.

3. Keep Documentation (Simple)

The suggestion to have documentation at all may lead to a few sarcastic laughs. Too many organizations have no instructions, no guidebooks, and no manuals whatsoever. Others have materials that are extremely outdated.

But, if you have documentation and you keep it up to date, you can dramatically reduce the learning curve for new people. You can also cut down on the time needed to talk about things which have already been resolved. And as always, make things as simple as possible.

4. Dedicated collaboration room

This is a technique used by architects, coaches, therapists, doctors, and mechanics. Instead of just working anywhere, there is a particular space in which work is done. Sometimes, there are special tools there. In other cases, it’s helpful to have privacy.

In your office, do you tend to do work by walking up to people’s desks? Or do you have conference rooms available? Consider making use of a devoted space for collaboration.

5. Get to know each other

The last piece of advice is the only one that causes me to raise an eyebrow. Chances are, you don’t like all your coworkers. And as I’ve written before, the closer your workplace relationships, the harder it can be to tell what’s best for the company.

But a little bit of socializing with the people you see every day isn’t a bad thing. Get a bite to eat or a drink after work. Develop some rapport. It will help you to work more smoothly together if you see each other as people, not just colleagues.

Now, go design your workflow. And, good luck!

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


Troublemaker and productivity/workflow expert. Slightly more complex than 140 characters will permit.
@lorraineball First probably depends on the business. But second is likely training, especially with regard to sales. - 4 weeks ago
Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter

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