There are many ways in which a business can run more lean and profitable. Over the past couple of decades as technology continues to increase, many businesses must be as productive as possible. There are many challenges that businesses can face in implementing standard operating procedures for different tasks, especially with many generations in the workforce. For example, when Toyota attempted to implement lean manufacturing and change some its process it ran into some challenges. As this article says, with many cultures and generations working for Toyota, there were many conflicting thoughts on the new processes. Management had to go back to the drawing board and implement changes at different paces for different people. Designing an effective workflow to reach a certain optimal process is something that all businesses should strive for.
What Is A Workflow
A workflow essentially is something where the end result is known, but we must work back to the beginning to design all of the steps to get us there. As this article states, an effective workflow will not only save a business money, but it should also save time and improve morale in the long run. The great part of a workflow is the fact that every step is clearly defined, and everyone working on the goal knows whether they are ahead or behind the curve on how long it is taking to reach the goal.
Real World Examples
There have been many businesses, such as Toyota, that have tried to implement sweeping changes all at once without consulting the employees. The problem with this is that employees are often the experts on what needs to be done in order to accomplish the mission. There may be some disagreements between management and employees about tasks which may take shorter or longer than management believes. An effective workflow is something that employees and management alike can buy in to. After Toyota went back to its employees and made some changes, everyone was more bought in overall to the process and wanted to help implement the changes.
Although every business will have a different workflow in some capacity, there are a few steps that will be universal in designing and effective workflow. First of all, every business should know the starting and ending points where the workflow is going to be mapped. The purpose of a workflow is to design specific steps along the way for someone to work on, with each step clearly defined with both the goal and how long it should take. As stated earlier, it is also important to remember that in the early stages, some tweaking may be involved. However, once the process is ironed out those executing the workflow should be able to clearly see an improved workflow efficiency where tasks can be completed in a more productive manner.
One of the biggest and most important reasons for implementing a workflow is the greater efficiency that comes from work. Especially in a manufacturing environment, there are specific tasks that must be taken in order to reach a finished product. There have been many trends in the past such as lean manufacturing that have attempted to accomplish a streamlined work solution. A workflow should essentially accomplish the same thing as it clearly defines each step in the process. When each step in a complex process is broken down in simple terms, the people working will have much more buy in and can reduce waste in each of the steps. When waste is reduced in the steps leading up to the completion of the task in the workflow, the overall process is streamlined and both employees and management are better off.
Overall, designing and effective workflow is not something that will happen in one day after a few hours of work. People from all leadership levels in a business should have buy in on the workflow, and each process needs to be clearly mapped out in leading up to the goal. There have been many companies that have implemented workflows in the past to attempt to reduce waste and improve efficiency. Learning from the mistakes of the companies that have previously attempted an improved workflow can save a business thousands of hours and millions of dollars in lost productivity. Although it will be a difficult task, designing and implementing an effective workflow is something that every business can benefit from and one that every business should attempt to implement.
By: Dennis Hung