Our lives revolve around routines. Every morning, you start your day, brew your coffee, engage in some exercise, enjoy breakfast, and then prepare for your workday. The routine serves as a series of deliberate steps, guiding you through the early hours and setting the tone for the rest of your day.
Just as the morning routine provides structure to our personal lives, a well-planned workflow across teams lays the foundation for success. Without a clear understanding of tasks or the current activities of the team, you may find yourself perplexed by the uncertainties of how to navigate further.
As rightly quoted by Sheryl Sandberg, “Done is better than perfect.” For teams and project managers executing complex tasks at hand, “getting things done” through a well-defined workflow is of prime importance. A strategic workflow not only enhances visibility but provides a clear framework for individual tasks and projects. But how can you effectively build a workflow process that resonates across your teams?
We suggest you follow these steps:
1. Understand your team dynamics
When you get started with the foundation for your workflow management, the initial steps should be to understand the team dynamics.
Matt Wilkie, an asset manager, writes in his article:
“Project management is not just about timelines and deliverables; it’s profoundly about managing people. Each team member brings their own set of skills, motivations, and emotions to the table. Effective project leaders understand these dynamics and how they contribute to the team’s performance and project outcomes.”
Similarly, when laying out a workflow design, you need to have a comprehensive understanding of your team composition, individual working styles, and the pace at which each team member operates. For instance, a proficient engineering team typically comprises:
- Project manager
All are integral for the seamless execution of the project.
Within your workflow, depending on the scope and size of the project, you must recognize strengths and weaknesses, including specific requirements like the number of developers or quality assurance professionals needed for a particular project.
You will need to consider factors like the workload each person can handle for the defined project hours. It should include the minutest details regarding each team member, as it will directly influence the day-to-day operations of your project.
2. Set SMART goals for your team
According to a study on goal setting, employees tend to be highly motivated when the likelihood of achieving a particular goal is around 50%. This will require you to set clearly defined goals for your teams.
Hence, when building out workflows adhering to the SMART criteria ensures that the process is crafted around specific, meaningful and achievable objectives. While this may appear self-evident, teams engaged in building and standardizing an effective workflow may sometimes lose sight of the overarching purpose.
Thereby, you can define objectives by ensuring that they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For example, a SMART objective can be: “Increase software development team’s code review efficiency by 20% within the next two sprints.”
- Specific: Focuses on increasing the development team’s code review efficiency.
- Measurable: Uses a percentage of “20%” as a measure.
- Achievable: Possible within the next two sprints.
- Relevant: In terms of enhancing project efficiency.
- Time-bound: Within the next two sprints.
Defining objectives with this approach ensures clarity, measurability, achievability, relevance, and time specificity for the teams. Hence, clarifying the purpose and direction of the team’s efforts and creating measurable metrics foster a cohesive and strategic approach to your workflow management.
3. Assess your current workflow across teams
After identifying team dynamics and establishing goals, the next step is to assess the current workflow in relation to those objectives.
Initiate a comprehensive workflow analysis to pinpoint any bottlenecks or inefficiencies in the current processes. Engage with various team members to gather feedback on their perspectives regarding the existing workflow and if they have any preferences for modifications or enhancements.
Assessing your current workflow will involve taking the following measures:
- Get answers to why this workflow is relevant and what the purpose of the workflow is.
- Check if it is in line with the goals set for your teams and projects.
- Check current documentation to understand if it is clearly explained as a process.
- Spend time to review the individual steps and timeline.
- Identify if each step is correctly assigned and the instructions attached are accurate for each task?
- If there’s an area you think can be improved, write down the potential change in your assessment review.
Compile a list of areas for improvement or change within the current workflow as per your assessment. Each potential change should be accompanied by a plan to measure its effectiveness. This compilation serves as the foundation for detailing the necessary changes to an existing workflow or for laying out a new one.
4. Map out your workflow design
You can employ diagrams and workflow design to represent project steps visually. The visual aids, such as workflow diagrams, contribute to gaining an overall perspective of a project, describing the smaller steps essential for execution. Each column represents the next step in the process. Make sure to choose a particular workflow process to visualize, ensuring it’s not a combination of multiple processes.
In your workflow diagram, you can list all the different stages in an outline using appropriate symbols for steps, decisions, and actions. Once you have the workflow diagram, share it with your team to gather feedback and make necessary adjustments to the workflow.
For example, design teams usually create workflows for product feature releases in a flowchart tool to define start and endpoints, noting multiple possible user experience behaviors and outcomes. They define their workflow approach by identifying a problem and generating a solution cycle in their designs, which leads to a better user experience for the products.
Learn how to set up a fully functional workflow visualization with Teamhood.
5. Set up the right project management platform
This quote from Scott Allen makes absolute sense when thinking about a project management platform:
A project is complete when it starts working for you, rather than you working for it.
Setting up the right project management tool should do exactly the same, it should help in working for you, rather than you working for it. A lot depends on which project management tool you set up for your team when you consider building workflows. Each tool will offer unique features, and you must find the best fit for your team’s needs.
In today’s time, you have the luxury to choose from a plethora of project management platforms, with the flexibility to deploy end-to-end workflows. You should set up a robust project management tool that aids in defining objectives, breaking down larger projects into smaller phases, automating task assignments, monitoring progress, and enabling your team members to complete tasks efficiently.
For instance, if you consider using Teamhood’s project management platform, you can utilize features for project tracking, progress reports, and assigning tasks. You can also create shared lists for each project, delegate tasks to team members, set deadlines, and track progress. Furthermore, it gives the ability to collaborate with team members, share files, and ensure everyone stays informed and aligned.
6. Designate roles and responsibilities within your team
Establishing an effective workflow within a team will require you to define roles and responsibilities for each team member. Setting clear expectations at the project’s onset is important as ambiguity in roles can result in miscommunication and expectations mismatch, affecting workflow efficiency and the overall project.
Additionally, when you employ agile or scrum-based techniques within a workflow, it helps in clearly defining roles for each team member. For example, a product owner will prioritize and define the product backlog, the scrum master facilitates team collaboration for any potential blockers, and the development team incrementally delivers work during short sprints.
Such definitions of roles and responsibilities enable teams to function effectively and with timely delivery of projects.
7. Implement automation for repetitive tasks
A recent study by Deloitte on 2023 workflow automation trends, suggests that embedding automation within your business process will help organizations uncover and enable new operating models, allowing you to maximize productivity and bring more meaning, growth, and autonomy to your teams.
When creating a workflow process, you should be able to discern tasks that can be easily automated. Identify tasks that are suitable for in-house execution, seek support from outsourced partners, or will need technology plug-ins.
You can ask questions like:
- Should this task be executed manually, or can it be automated by our tech stack?
- If the task can be done manually, then who is the best person for the job?
- Can it be automated by our current tech stack, or will it need a new one?
- If it will need a new one, then what is the best option available, and how can we get it done?
When you ask the right questions and establish clear ownership of each step, it will serve as a proactive measure to pave the way for a streamlined workflow integrated with automation and human expertise.
8. Establish an effective communication channel
For an effective workflow, it is important to establish robust communication and collaboration channels among your team members. For seamless communication, you need to set up online or offline messaging platforms for asynchronous collaboration.
Your project management tool should be able to send timely reminders and notification emails on task assignments, due dates and status updates. It should also have the ability to be integrated with asynchronous messaging platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc.
Regular stand-up meetings, brainstorming sessions, and retrospectives are essential for facilitating daily interaction within a team. These forums provide opportunities for discussing current status, addressing ongoing challenges, and maintaining adaptability and responsiveness to the project’s needs.
Furthermore, it’s essential to cultivate an environment where every team member feels comfortable speaking openly about their challenges rather than remaining isolated. Fostering open and transparent discussions will empower team members, giving them more authority and independence to execute work, thus improving the efficiency of the workflow process.
9. Provide training for your workflow process
When implementing a new workflow or making changes to an existing one, you and your teams must allocate time for training and support. Adopting a proactive approach involves organizing training sessions and workshops to identify and address any potential confusion or misunderstandings.
During these training sessions, give your team a walkthrough of the entire workflow process and explain how it will be implemented across teams. Address any questions or concerns the team may have regarding the workflow process. Clearing any potential doubts regarding goals, roles and responsibilities, assigned tasks, or timelines within your workflow will be essential.
Additionally, introducing a new tool or platform in your workflow will need you to provide a walkthrough of its key features and functionalities. Ensure that every team member feels comfortable using the tool to facilitate a smooth transition from manual work to automation.
10. Get your creative workflow process in motion
The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.
Now is the time to begin doing so. You have all the necessary components in place for your teams, such as the project management platform, goals defined, roles and responsibilities, communication channels, training, and it’s time to get your workflow in motion.
To ensure the success of any built workflow, it is essential for your team to consistently follow the defined steps and stages within the workflow. This adherence helps establish a daily routine for them throughout the project lifecycle.
A creatively designed workflow contributes to fostering a healthy work environment for your team members. Moreover, for new team members, it facilitates a quicker understanding of your processes and business functions, enabling them to grasp the workflow more easily.
Learn more about some of the best engineering workflow examples.
11. Gather feedback for continuous improvement
Once you have established an effective workflow process in motion, it is imperative to continuously seek feedback from your team members. Create a feedback loop by sending out surveys amongst team members or by proactively asking questions to promote open communication and collaboration within the team. Regular input from team members helps identify areas of strength and potential challenges within the workflow.
You can also organize team retrospective meetings at the end of each sprint to discuss what went wrong and how it can be improved moving forward to enhance the overall workflow process.
Emphasizing the importance of feedback not only enhances the efficiency of the existing workflow but also reinforces a sense of shared ownership and commitment among team members towards the collective success of the project.
If you are looking to establish a successful workflow across your teams, start with a free Teamhood account today.
2019 - Present Marketing specialist
Innovative content marketeer with MSc in International Communication, Mindaugas brings fresh ideas and inspiration about project management and beyond.