Business

Simplifying Workflows for Better Results at Work

April 13, 2020

“Very busy!”, “Deadline is here!”, “Who is working on this?”, “I don’t have time” … These are the words we use and hear all the time. For some reason, we struggle to find out why are we running around the office, or inside our minds, like a headless chicken all day and still not very clear about what is happening about that project or task. Now, I invite you to think deep on the root causes of those “busy” sentences. Most of the time, the reason behind being too busy is ineffective workflows we use to get stuff done. Unless we come up with a strategy to improve how we work, we will keep chasing a moving target and waste tons of time on the road.

There are countless ways to complete a task. And the way you choose has big impact on the quality of work. I think, “Simple is the new King”. Complicated processes cause clutter and lack of clarity. And these cause stress, which ends up burning you and your team out. As a result, quality of work keeps decreasing by time, because people will want to get out of the mess as soon as possible with minimal care of the quality.

So, how can you simplify your workflows to bring clarity, remove clutter, increase the quality of work and avoid burnout? Here are some tips.

1. Define it simply

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough

Albert Einstein

When I start to work with my customers, first I ask them to explain what they are doing and how they are doing it in the simplest manner, with one or two sentences. At that moment, they start to realize how clear the end goal actually is.

“But Burak, it is not that easy to get there.” Yes, you are right, nothing is easy. Actually, converting a complicated process into a simple one is one of the least easy activities. It requires a very good understanding of the work itself, possible bottlenecks and roadblocks. So, start with explaining the workflow, simply. What is the end goal? What are the requirements to meet?


2. Reverse engineering the process

Now you have a clear end goal in hand (nothing with a clear end goal worth doing). Grab a pen and paper and write down that goal. Then, take a step back to see what is required to get there. Use the inspiration from the requirements you have defined previously. And continue until you reach the starting point of the workflow without the clutter.

Another similar approach is a technique used by creative writers: while building the story, they start with the end and go backwards to create the structure, characters etc. You can use the same to build the flow of your work.


3. Batching sub-processes

Batching tasks is a common productivity technique. Why not benefit from it? Steps of the workflow are right in front of you. Which steps can be completed simultaneously by different team members? Or if this is a short term workflow that repeats regularly, is it possible that the same step of different projects can be created in batch? 


4. Visualize and simulate

It is time to run the workflow, in your mind. Use the power of visualizing to simulate. This is where your know-how comes into play. Identify possible bottlenecks and eliminate unnecessary steps in your flow. 

Software compilers can run codes line by line for developers to see where things get crappy. Act like a compiler and fix those bugs to have a clear workflow that runs like a clockwork.


5. Have a single source of truth

Any multi-step process that involves more than one person, should be well documented and tracked in a single source of truth. 

Clarity is depending on a reliable source of information, especially for teamwork. Everyone who is part of your flow should know where to access the required information instead of jumping between tools. This is simple, less number of tools for more productivity.

The company I work for, Asana, is my personal favorite (obviously) for organizing and tracking any kind of flow, work or personal. If you want to have a taste of it, find your way to asana.com or reach out to me.


Conclusion

We have so much going around us. It is almost impossible to avoid distractions, keep focused and have a piece of mind when working. Last thing we want is to be stuck in messy processes that feel like drowning, where we have the option to optimize it for the better. 

Let me know if you try out these tips or feel free to share yours. There is no “one tip fits all” approach here, but we can help each other out to bring clarity for more people.

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