The Pitfalls of Workflows

When we talk about workflows and their benefits, the one that is consistently put forward is that it enables faster execution. Take product development for example: using workflows to bring products faster to market is a key argument to use a solution that will help drive the process.

Workflows are typically introduced so that a given process is formalised and visible, and to bring all parties together around one goal. They will not however teach people how to do their jobs, they will not replace emails or even phone calls, and certainly will not make the personal checklist / to do list obsolete just yet…

But they bring other value such as visibility, ownership, and ultimately allowing for faster execution – provided the solution used to support workflows allows for clear and meaningful reporting.

Having said all of that, one argument in favour of workflows I rarely heard over the years is that of productivity: what if workflows allowed to do more with the same resources, i.e. be more productive?

After all, if one has better visibility on the activities, volume can be better dealt with, can it not?

There is however a decisive factor that will enable to go beyond the faster execution benefit of a workflow and improve productivity: its design!

Think of it this way: the result / achievement is the key information to capture, not so much how one obtains that result. In other words: “I am drinking coffee” vs “I get up, I turn the machine on, I grab a cup, etc….”.

All too often in the excitement of introducing workflows, companies tend to make them too complex: “we want to track everything”, “we should not forget this step”, “we want to capture these dates because we might need it later”….

That is very common mistake, as workflows will almost immediately turn into the Friday afternoon nightmare admin task of “yep Mister System, I’ve done it” which brings no added value or benefit whatsoever.

Needless to say that adoption will be low and workflows abandoned as quickly as they came, so the productivity benefit will hardly be reached.

Well designed workflows are the key to both faster execution and productivity.

Julien CassegrainThe Pitfalls of Workflows

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