Are You Making These Common Workflow Mistakes?

Workflow is understood to be an essential part of the day-to-day operations in a business, and every company uses workflow – but not every company uses workflow well.

Workflows come naturally to most people, but that doesn’t automatically make them good. Workflow is used in nearly every task, so it’s imperative that it’s done effectively and efficiently. To make a great workflow, you need effort and proper foresight.

Here are four common mistakes to watch out for when creating a workflow:

1.  Poor Communication

When a workflow has poor communication project members get left out, outdated information is used and expectations remain unclear. A process with poor communication is certain to fail. No business can succeed with unsustainable practices, and poor communication is exactly that: unsustainable.

Workflow automation and document generation are here to change this.

Workflow automation software keeps your team informed by sending notifications to group members in real-time. One of the many benefits of automation is that groups will only be notified of their own tasks as necessary, and not everyone will be flooded with information they don’t need – keeping the lines of communication focused and clear.

Document generation  keeps information updated by pulling data from the newest files and building new documents as needed.

These two programs work in tandem to prevent poor communication and promote sustainable practices.

2.  Insufficient Planning

Foresight is the cornerstone of a good workflow. Every group member should know where the project is going and what the next step is.

A workfow can easily get long and complicated, so it’s imperative to plan sufficiently. Think about the workflow for onboarding a new employee. It involves many steps that all need to get done before the employee arrives on the first day. A thinly-planned workflow causes little details to be missed, resulting in wasted time and under-prepared new employees.

A strong workflow should be clear and well-prepared. After hiring a new employee, the HR department needs to gather and enter new information, collect forms, create new accounts and organize the first day, all while coordinating with other departments.

One way to organize this workflow is to break it down into several stages. Each stage is a point of completion or milestone within the project. These milestones keep the workflow on track and make sure the little details are remembered.

3.  Misjudging Your Limits

Another frequent mistake people make with workflows is not knowing their limits.

Massive workflows with long timelines look and feel daunting for group members. Understanding the limits of your team and your project will keep the workflow reasonable and clear.

One example of this can be seen in a contracting firm. These firms require approval from several people at all levels for each contract, and that can get messy. One long, uninterrupted workflow would be difficult to manage.

Instead, break down a long workflow. Each point of approval in the workflow acts like a checkpoint. Members can make sure the contract looks good before approving it for the next person.

Sending one massive contract to several people at once for revisions would be confusing. What if the contract isn’t approved by the legal department? What if the contract is inaccurate? What if one clause is wrong for two reasons? Checkpoints in a long workflow let you catch problems and adjust course before you move to the next stage.

4.  Workflow Tunnel Vision

Many administrators focus on the ”happy path” of a workflow and never consider what will happen if things go wrong. It becomes easy to think of a workflow as a direct, nose-down push to a goal, but the real strength with workflow is its ability to adapt with new information.

Even with short workflows, if it’s planned with no room to adapt, you won’t get the best results. A workflow should act as a unifying method for your team, not as a micro-managed, entrenched structure.

Projects don’t always go to plan, and you need a workflow that can adapt to new information. The process needs to guide your team, but also let you adjust as needed.

Bottlenecks happen, and a strong workflow lets users accept new information and calibrate accordingly. Companies with rigid and over-technical workflows get rigid and over-technical results.

 

Managing the Mistakes

Workflows are common in business today, but we still see the same mistakes. When these common mistakes go unaddressed, the company loses time, quality of work and motivation.

Time is lost with poor communication and unfinished planning. Quality is sacrificed when adjustments can’t be made with new information. And motivation is drained if the workflow seems never-ending.

These mistakes take time, energy and focus to fix. However, companies that recognize and address these issues are rewarded with more enjoyable work, an improved process and a better end product. Common workflow mistakes can be difficult to address, but solving these issues rewards a company over and over.

 

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Patrick Nguyen

Pat Nguyen has been with Nintex as a Business Analyst for almost two years. In his role he uses Nintex Forms and Nintex Workflow to build custom workflow solutions to solve business challenges. In his spare time Pat enjoys exploring Seattle on his longboard. He’s a University of Notre Dame alum and a Fighting Irish fan.