Go with the flow: A step-by-step guide to creating a smooth workflow

by Gregory Lambelin on May 4, 2015 5:21:58 PM

Being an effective business manager means understanding the workflow of your team, and utilizing that to maximize their efficiency. Particularly as your business, and team, grows you need to have a solid workflow in place that works to your people’s strengths. So, how can you create a smooth workflow not only for yourself, but also for your team?

10 steps to creating a smooth workflow

  1. Understand. Take the time to understand all parts of your business. Know your people and their strengths—and their weaknesses. This will help you delegate tasks, optimizing the workflow within your team. Additionally, understand your clients, and what they need, so that you can match the skills of your team with each individual client. Lastly understand the limits of the tools available to you. While we’d all like to have top of the line everything at our disposal, that’s not always the case. By understanding all aspects of what makes your business tick, you can set realistic goals and deadlines.
  2. Make a list, check it twice. List making is a very effective way to understand what needs to be done. By itemizing this way, you can get a clear picture of the tasks at hand, then you can move forward with collecting tools, resources and prioritizing to start checking things off and getting things done. List making can also help with staying focused on the tasks at hand, and eliminate that horrible feeling when the day slips away and you feel like you didn’t get anything done. If you have the tasks right there in front of you, you’re more likely to understand what needs to be done, and do it.
  3. Gather what you need. Make sure you, and your team, has everything they need to effectively complete their jobs. Do they have the right computers or software for the jobs? Do they need cell phones to be able to make international calls? Access to printers, or fax machines? All these tools and resources will help your workflow move more smoothly. An investment now will save you time, and money to pay for your employee’s time, later.
  4. Apps. Consider using apps to further your business and help streamline your workflow. Things like time clocks, personal calendars, to do lists, and even time trackers that can track what you spend most of your time doing, can help you understand where your workday goes, and best manage your time to create an optimized workflow.
  5. Assess the difficulty level. Once you have your list, make sure you understand how difficult, and there for how much work, each task will be. This will help you assign the right team members to each task, and prioritize items on your list.
  6. Angles. Think about all the ways to accomplish your goal. There’s more than one road that could lead to your completed task, which one is the shortest, with the least amount of curves? Check all the angles and make sure you choose the best approach for this client, this task, and this group of workers.
  7. Prioritize. Workflow is all about priorities. Understand which tasks are the most important, and assign those out accordingly. For example, gathering research for a particular job is useless if it’s done after the job has already started, and your team has been guessing about certain values within the finished product. Research should be done first, then no guesswork is needed, and no one has to go back and redo any work to correct any miscalculated guesses. So, prioritizing research as a valuable and important step will help streamline, and make your workflow more efficient.
  8. Use templates. When moving from client to client, templates can be a very valuable tool. They can come in the form of newsletters, emails, or even Web site templates. Rather than having to reinvent the wheel with each client, reuse things like emails, taking care to personalize each message, and newsletters to let your clients know about special events.
  9. Adapt. Most importantly, make sure that your workflow is adaptable to not only you, but also your team. Each team member will work differently, so give them a broad enough part of the overall goal so they can accomplish it the best way they know how. Maybe you like to tackle emails first in your day to get them out of the way, but Suzie likes to save them for last since she’s usually burned out and they don’t take much brain power. Let your team decide how to accomplish their goals, and adapt them to their needs. On that same note, tailor your own tasks to your needs to help you work as efficiently as possible. Set an example and inspire your team to do the same.
  10. Evolve. Things change constantly. Your clients, your team members, your resources will all change. So in order to keep your workflow, well…flowing, make sure that you are constantly evolving your plans to accommodate these changes. Maybe Suzie got a job somewhere else, and her strengths were working quick and efficiently. But the new hire is a more diligent but slow worker. You will need to accommodate that person within your workflow in order to keep your team working successfully. Or perhaps you got a new software system to help your workflow run more smoothly, but the installation process is a bear, and training everyone on it is proving complicated. Stay the course and keep your long term goals in focus to keep your company evolving with the ever changing market.
  11. Time management. Time management is a huge factor when talking about workflow. Making sure you manage your time properly is one of the only things that will keep your work flowing. Minimize distractions like phone calls, and social media in order to work effectively. Make sure you’re using your to do list. This can help you stay focused on the tasks at hand, so you don’t get too distracted. Distractions are a time manager’s enemy! But, don’t forget to take breaks. Research shows that taking frequent short breaks keeps you from feeling burned out at the end of the day, and produces a more quality product. So, make sure you’re managing your time effectively.

Creating a solid workflow is the only way to effectively get your team from point A to point B: Potential client, to completed job or sale. Understanding your company and your client’s needs are the most important thing when it comes to building your workflow. The rest will fall into place with some hard work, careful planning, and contributing team members.