Designing A Workflow

Marking packaging alongside the production line

Designing a workflow for a new process is a tall task, and quite intimidating if you are new to the area. Still, they are a lot of fun, especially when you see that factory churning out those widgets for the first time. While I have primarily designed workflow solutions in the digital realm, I feel a lot of the lessons I have learned transfer fairly well to a traditional factory workflow, as well.

What is the as is process? It is really tough to design a new process when you do not know the ins and outs of the old way of doing things. If you do not know the as is process, figure it out. There are always the folks who are actually working in the as is process today that have deep knowledge and understanding of how things work, and what the pain points are. When you are learning the as is process, take lots of notes (recordings are great as well) and ask TONs of questions. Recite back to the current process owner what you have learned and ensure your understand everything correctly. If you cannot talk to the as is process then how can your speak to the to be process?

What already exists? You are most certainly not the only person that has been tasked to design a new workflow. It turns out, there is a lot of information available at our finger tips that can help us find simple solutions to the problems that we are facing. Don’t forget, The Devil is In the Details, and all of the little things matter. What may seem trivial may actually be a significant issue or hurdle–so ensure that you can account for all of the subprocesses and features your workflow will need to be successful.

Collaborate with others. Sure, maybe you have a fantastic idea to help solve a complex problem. The issue with that is that you most certainly have not thought of everything in your solution. Collaboration with others, while painful and slow at times, can help you ensure that you account for everything in your brilliant workflow solution. Remember, we are actually very rarely in this alone, especially in a work context.

Be able to succinctly and eloquently speak to your workflow design. If you can chat through a question against your workflow quickly and easily you may need to take a bit more time to look at your design. Take that feedback and ensure you can come back to the topic if you must. People can tell when you are struggling to address an issue, and most folks do not need an answer right then and there and will respect that you want to get it right.

Sometimes you just have to put something out there. Very rarely does the design 1.0 end up being the final version, it’s why we have versions of things, really. There is always opportunity for improvements in later phases provided you are able to come up with a minimal viable solution to the problem(s) that you are facing. Workflows are tough, but also very fun and rewarding as well. Dive in, you have got this!

Author: Ted Henry Curtis

Support Delivery Manager. Passion for process improvement, standardization, and simplification.

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