When you struggle with a business process, it is because you use the same workflow process template over and over again. The biggest mistake in managing workflows is focusing on the outcome so passionately that you forget to fine-tune the step-by-step methodology. Here is a method that helps you come back to basics when you get stuck in a process and push past the “this is how we have always done things” trap.
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What is a Workflow?
A workflow is a business tool that clarifies the steps included in a task from initiation to completion. Workflows simplify complex tasks by assigning persons responsible for tackling every activity in a business process.
Every workflow consists of an input, a series of steps that transform that particular input into a desirable output, and a produced output. A visual diagram or a checklist usually represents the steps people take to complete a workflow.
What is a Workflow Process?
When steps or activities related to a task are executed in a particular order according to a predefined set of rules, we speak of a workflow process. Digital workflow processes now dominate the virtual office space. To create a workflow process, you can use a workflow management tool. Those tools are mainly software or an app that automates tasks and steps necessary to complete the task.
Workflow management tools help you avoid doing tedious legwork and track KPIs and OKRs. The result is a workflow process template, a document that visually pictures the process of transforming an input into an output that meets a business goal.
Linear vs. Non-linear Workflow Process Template
For simple tasks, a workflow process template is usually linear.
A linear process describes every step of a task in a straightforward fashion from start to end, without divergences, bottlenecks, or multiple outcome choices.
However, work is rarely that simple. Progress is often unanticipated. Projects diversify and testing is sometimes the only way to find out what step in a task comes next. Therefore, a workflow process is often a work in progress that undergoes changes along business outcomes.
A non-linear workflow process template doesn’t always follow a predetermined logical way of doing things and can take many different directions simultaneously. Scrum workflow is an example of a dynamic system for adjusting business processes to the changes that happen as you go.
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How to Create a Workflow Process Template
The word “template” defines something stable and fixed. Then how can you rely on a template that may need to change without knowing when and how? The solution is in creating a template about templates. The following questions will help you produce a visual layout of a process that may be subject to many unforeseen future changes.
1. What is my input?
Input refers to your resources. Resources include anything ranging from money, time, ideas, advice, information, and expertise to energy spent on managing people and tasks. The best way to identify an input is not to do it alone. Ask for feedback from everyone involved to define the input you have that will take you to the desired output. In this way, you also discover missing links. List the things that you have to reach a goal.
2. What is my desired output?
The output is a specific outcome, product, or delivery executed with a certain step. Outputs can, but do not necessarily match a business goal or an outcome. Most of the time, they do not accomplish a goal. They deliver on a task. It usually takes a variety of tasks from multiple projects to accomplish a business goal. Creating a workflow process template focuses on actions. Actions are defined by verbs, while outcomes are defined by nouns. When you create an action-based workflow process, you have a scheme that can be used even when someone quits.
3. What tasks need to be accomplished?
In the simplest possible way, a task is a piece of work that needs to be done. Problems in a workflow process arise when you have missed identifying specific tasks and/or mixed them with steps necessary to complete a task.
4. Which steps are necessary to accomplish a task?
If you think it is unimportant to specify each action for accomplishing a task, you’re underestimating the role of workflow automation. What automated workflows have in common is painstaking step definition. The point of being clear about specific steps is not micromanagement but creating a system that facilitates the execution of the next logical step in a workflow. Concrete steps can be created by task owners. Managers do not need to delve into specifics but should set an example of the benefits of producing an actionable workflow.
5. Who is the task owner?
Find out who is accountable for each step and assign task ownership. Task ownership supports role clarity. It is more effective to create tasks first and develop roles second based on those tasks. The logical process is steps, then tasks, and finally, roles. When you are clear about each of these elements, you avoid duplicating roles or creating task loopholes.
By mapping the process for the elements discovered by asking these questions, you create a workflow diagram for process visualization.
As long as you are clear about the input, output, tasks, steps, and owners, you can develop and redesign simple linear and complex non-linear workflow process templates.
Workflow Process Template Example