7 Steps to Creating an Efficient Workflow for Your Team
If you’re a team lead, project manager, or business owner, there comes a point where you can’t play things by ear anymore.
Eventually, your team or business will reach a stage of growth where improvising all of your projects and giving people little direction will lead to confusion, inefficient execution of tasks, and inconsistent results.
Maybe you’re about to hit (or have already hit) this tipping point and feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or even a little bit hopeless. But fear not. There’s a way to get back on the path of clarity, efficiency, and consistency, and it entails building workflows.
Below, we’ve fleshed out the steps to creating the ultimate workflow for your team, and also highlighted the benefits of documenting it. Read on to start maximizing your team’s efficiency and productivity.
What is a workflow?
A workflow is a granular series of tasks that aim to complete a particular step of a process.
A process is a high-level set of repeatable activities that aim to accomplish a business goal.
Take, for example, content creation.
If content creation is a process, then the individual steps to ideate and publish an article represent a workflow.
Workflows can be complex. For instance, some of the (many) steps to ideate and publish an article are:
Brainstorming a topic
Doing keyword research
Writing the article
Revising and publishing the article
Needless to say, to reap the full benefits of a content creation workflow, it's just not enough to build it. You also need to document it and map it out.
Why should you map out a workflow?
Your team will be able to master the workflow quickly
Mapping out a workflow allows your team to reference it whenever they have to execute it or study it. This allows them to speed up their learning processes.
Mapping out your workflow also boosts the odds that your team will execute it correctly on a consistent basis, which is not only crucial for mastery but also for maximizing your workflow’s effectiveness.
Workflows are like clockwork — they’re designed to be executed with surgical precision, so performing any of its steps out of order could throw a monkey wrench into it.
Going back to the content creation example, if you start writing an article before you complete your keyword research, you could take it in a direction that lowers the odds of it ranking for the primary keyword that you’ll eventually pick. As a result, you’ll have to overhaul whatever you’ve put down on paper so far and start the writing process all over again.
You won’t need to micromanage your team
Autonomy, one of our basic psychological needs, is the leading contributor to happiness in the workplace. People need to feel in control of their work.
Fortunately, even if you’re in charge of your team’s direction, mapping out your workflow can give your team members the autonomy that they so desperately crave.
If your team knows how to execute a workflow, then there’s no need for you to be a helicopter manager.
Additionally, when your team members know what the end result of their work needs to look like, then they can complete their task however they’d like. They can be in charge of their own process.
7 steps to creating an efficient workflow
Now that you know what exactly workflows are and why it’s important to map them out, here’s how you can create one in only eight steps.
We’ll continue to use content creation as an example to help solidify the steps.
1. Set your workflow’s goals
Your workflow should aim to complete a particular part of a process in an efficient and effective way.
When you first start building your workflow, make sure to document:
Which part of the process you’d like it to complete (Ideate and publish an article)
How much time you’d like each step to take (1 work week total split into smaller tasks, with assigned time limits)
The end product that you’d like to see your team produce after they complete the workflow (A published article on the blog)
The impact you’d like your workflow to have on the process at large (Rank on page one of Google and boost our search authority and organic views)
2. Build your workflow with your team
When developing your workflow, it’s not enough just to keep your team members in mind. You need them to inform the creative process. After all, they’re the ones who will be executing it on a consistent basis.
Consider building the foundation of your workflow first by mapping out each task and assigning the appropriate team members to each one.
Then, refine the workflow by adding any missing steps and reshaping its structure, if need be.
You should also ask your team how much time each task will take to complete and if anyone else needs to be involved in each task.
Again, here’s what the abbreviated workflow for writing an article would look like, plus its assigned team members and projected timeline:
Brainstorm Topic: Manuela, Content Manager | 4 Hours
Do Keyword Research: Martin, Senior Writer & Editor | 4 Hours
Write Article: Clifford, Content Marketing Writer | 1 Day
Revise and Publish Article: Clifford, Content Marketing Writer | 4 Hours
3. Create a visual workflow diagram
Humans are visual learners. In fact, more than 50% of the brain’s cortex is dedicated to processing visual information. Help your team quickly and firmly grasp your workflow by creating a visual diagram of it in workflow software like Miro or InVision.
Additionally, sketching out your workflow can help you refine it even further. You’ll literally be able to see if it has any bottlenecks or inefficiencies, which leads us to our next section…
4. Figure out which tasks you can automate
If your workflow has a task that’s manual, you can most likely automate it with your integration platform.
Automating manual tasks not only saves you time but also eliminates the chance of human error, which increases exponentially when we try to complete monotonous tasks.
At Make, we have hundreds of pre-designed templates that can automate this type of busy work out of any workflow.
5. Launch your new workflow and make the necessary adjustments as you go
If your workflow is automated, then you can test it in a closed or partially-closed environment with Make. It’s an easy, straightforward, and flexible process.
All you need to do is build your workflow and click a button. You’ll see if it works within minutes.
If your workflow isn’t automated, though, things get a little more complicated.
Odds are, you won’t have the time or resources to test your workflow until you can bring it to its ideal state. And if you’re new to developing workflows, that might make you break into a cold sweat. There’s really no need to fret, though. You can just launch your new workflow and test it in the most pragmatic environment possible — reality.
At first glance, this might sound absolutely terrifying, but hear us out: When you course-correct your workflow, you’re not only getting the most practical feedback on it possible but you’re also avoiding the sacrifice of productivity that comes with testing it in a controlled environment.
For instance, testing your new workflow on actual articles instead of mock articles is much better for both refining your workflow and maintaining productivity.
That’s not to say you won’t catch some snags here and there. You will. But soon enough, you’ll be able to refine your workflow into a well-oiled machine and sustain your efficiency at the same time.
6. Analyze your workflow results
Now it’s time for the fun part: Seeing how your workflow performed.
To gauge its effectiveness and efficiency, track the average amount of time it took to complete each step, the quality of the end product that your team created, and the impact that your workflow had on the process at large.
After your analysis, leverage these results to inform the next iteration of your workflow. What’s working well? And what needs improvement?
In regards to content creation, maybe your articles aren’t ranking on page one enough. That could mean allocating more of your workflow’s time to keyword research and less to outlining or writing/editing because those take up the largest chunks of time.
7. Ask your team for constant feedback
At the end of the day, your team is executing the workflow. They will have the clearest insight into what is working well and what needs improvement. Consider asking them for feedback every time they execute the workflow.
Building the ultimate workflow for your team
Developing workflows for your team provides clarity, maximizes efficiency, and helps generate consistent results. And if you map out your workflows, your team will enjoy even more benefits. Namely, quickly mastering new workflows and working with a healthy level of autonomy.
With only eight steps to follow, you can revolutionize the way your team or business operates. So start building workflows and automate as many manual tasks as you can.
Your schedule, budget, and career will thank you.