What is a workflow?

Workflow, business operations, COVID, Work from home

Author: Matt Irving

Published: 2/4/2021


What is a workflow? Simply put, it’s the way tasks ‘flow’ in an organization. Without the flow, you are condemning your team to a chaotic workday. While there are many ways in which you can design a workflow, all methods generally consist of task definitions, priorities, assignments and the estimated time to complete tasks.

Task Definitions – These are vitally important as they tell the task owner what the task entails and why it is performed. Without knowing the why behind an assignment, your team will not execute as well as they can. You don’t want robots, employees need to act intelligently, independently, and confidently. All of which are attained when tasks are completely understood.

Tasks Priorities – This is especially important if your team’s workday involves many different tasks. Employees must always be aware of what needs to be accomplished first, second, third, fourth and so on.

Task Assignments – These must be available to the ENTIRE team. Individuals must know what tasks they are the owners of, and the collective must be aware of what each are working on. If you fail to do this, you will undoubtedly have people tripping over each other, sending multiple responses to emails, over allocating resources one way and under allocating another…sheer chaos guaranteed.

Task Time to Complete or TTC – This metric is crucial. Employees will need to know how long they are expected to take accomplishing certain tasks. This also gives management insight into how the team is performing.

Now, there is no on-size-fits-all workflow. You need to do what’s best for your organization. The best workflows are simple to follow, scalable and executable. In addition to those features, workflows must remain the departmental, or work group scope. Scope is an important topic that is far beyond the scope (…see what I did there 😊) of this article but whenever you venture outside it, things get very messy.

I view out of scope tasks as I do invasive plant and animal species. As a South Florida native, we know all too well the havoc an invasive species can wreak on an ecosystem.

The Burmese Python is a large, powerful snake that was kept as an exotic pet by quite a few Floridians. When these snakes got too big, people release them into the Everglades. Being as large as they are, there were no predators to keep their population in check, so their numbers exploded. Now they are devouring native wildlife at alarming rates, endangering children, and throwing the whole ecosystem out of whack.

This is like what happens when you introduce out of scope tasks into your workflow. Your team is an ecosystem, complete with resources, living organisms, and an environment. When you throw a task in there that the team’s ecosystem is not prepared to deal with, they will suffer. Having the accounting team handle inbound customer service calls will assuredly cause them stress and deplete their resources rapidly.

Remember, there are departments for a reason! Groups have their own sets of skills and strengths that enable them to handle specific problems.

Technology can assist greatly with creating and maintaining workflows. This is especially important in our new COVID work environment. By hosting your workflow on a web application, like a CRM (that’s customer relationship management software – a great one is Super Easy CRM), your team will have access to the latest and greatest workflows around the clock.

Keep the workflow simple and ensure it's scalable and your daily operations will flow as smooth as butter year round, remotely or onsite.