Modeling your workflow as a knowledge discovery process stays true to the nature of knowledge work and is fundamental to enabling continuous improvement.

If you consider your workflow steps as containers for workers, you’re highly likely to hinder your ability to make accurate data-driven decisions and so lose opportunities for improvement.

Your process steps shouldn’t represent a series of handoffs. Instead, it should expose the activities that you take when discovering more knowledge, and use that information to improve your deliverables. This approach will enable you to reveal the problems in your system, acknowledge them, and then work upon their prompt resolution.

Let’s explore the nature of the knowledge discovery process.

Your Process Should Not Be Exposed as a Network of Specialists and Handoffs

Today, I would like to share with you how the Nave team collaborates when we create our weekly content.

As a start, I will come up with an idea and prepare an initial outline. Then, this content will be taken through our business analyst, who works together with me to optimize the content. We will edit the content to improve its accessibility and make sure that it is easy to read and understand, even to our readers who are just getting started with Kanban.

Next, our digital marketer will perform SEO research around the topic, in order to figure out the best way we can position our content in the Google rankings. She will then adjust the content based on the results of this research. Finally, the content goes through several stages of editing and proofreading handled by our content editor and our business analyst. At this point, it could go through our digital marketer and content editor for any last touches. The final version will come back to me for a review before it is published.

Often, these handoffs will be the leading points for teams when they visualize their processes and design their Kanban system. Here is how the workflow would look like:

Workflow - Network of handoffs

The work moves back and forth constantly. Even though it feels instinctive, your workflow shouldn’t be exposed as a network of specialists and handoffs. That approach contradicts the nature of knowledge work. Rather than a series of handoffs between specialist workstations, knowledge work is centered upon creating information and knowledge.

In our Sustainable Predictability digital course, we expose the means to establish a flow-based system, and how you can use the knowledge discovery process to build the foundations of a stable, predictable workflow.

You probably already know that we are passionate Kanban practitioners, and managing our work effectively is an integral part of everything we do in our organization. So, let’s explore what our content creation process actually looks like.

Perceive Your Workflow as a Knowledge Discovery Process

We don’t visualize our workflow as networks of specialists and handoffs; we perceive it as a knowledge discovery process. We organize our work based on the activities that we undertake to gain more knowledge and use that knowledge to produce quality results.

To provide you with some context to this concept, this is what our content creation process actually looks like (pay attention to the fact that the work only moves forward):

Workflow - knowledge discovery process

  1. Selected Topics – this is our TOP 10 list of potential topics selected for future blog posts.
  2. Creating Initial Draft – during this step, I will write a rough outline of the content, getting all the ideas I have down onto the document and out of my head. We now have a bit more clarity on how we want to expose our content.
  3. Accessibility Review – our business analyst and I will then go through the article and add, remove or adjust certain sections, in order to make sure the content is enjoyable to read. More knowledge has been discovered.
  4. Marketing Research – this is where our digital marketer will work with our business analyst to craft a compelling headline, add the metadata for the content and adjust the copy in order to incorporate the keywords we are targeting. Our article is now optimized for SEO as we collected more information on the topic. Do you see how different specialists work on the same steps together?
  5. Editing and Proofreading – our content editor will then sort out any inconsistencies in grammar, spelling and punctuation. Our digital marketer and our business analyst will add any additional adjustments if needed. Even if the task needs to go through multiple revisions, it only moves forward into the process, as we are still gaining more information.
  6. Fine Tuning – this is the final step, during which I will apply any final touches to the article to make sure it is ready for publishing. Now, the process of knowledge discovery is completed.
  7. Published – the last step is to deliver another piece of value to you, our readers.

This approach prevents one of the most common traps that agile teams fall into – the antipattern of moving work backward on your Kanban board.

During each and every step, we discover more knowledge about the article. Then, we take that knowledge and use it to improve our deliverables. Every process should be modeled as a discovery knowledge process. 

You shouldn’t perceive the steps in your workflow as containers for specialties – this would only contradict the nature of knowledge work. Note that the workflow above doesn’t follow a process of handoffs between functional specialists, it follows a continuous path of discovering more information and building knowledge.

Switching the Focus to Producing Quality Results & Better Serving Our Audience

Organizing our work around the knowledge discovery process enables us to design and operate our system effectively, keeping our main focus on establishing an environment of continuous improvement.

The goal of every next step now becomes improving what we have created so far. We focus on the deliverable and as we gain more knowledge, we use that knowledge to bring more value to our business and our customers.

For example, after the initial draft is created, we don’t actually need to make it more accessible. The value is already there and even if we published the article at this stage, that would be fine. However, our goal is to reach as many people as possible to help them understand how to manage their work more effectively. That’s the reason why we have that step in place.

We don’t really need to perform marketing research. Still, we want our content to be discoverable to return our investment over and over again, that’s why we need to make sure that it goes on the top of Google search results.

It’s not really necessary to edit and proofread our articles, however, we want to provide quality content to bring awareness of our brand and position ourselves as professionals on the market.

The way we perceive our work has a tremendous impact on our team’s motivation to execute it. Every next step in the knowledge discovery process enables us to achieve our strategic goals to grow our business and expose a fit-for-purpose value proposition to our audience.

Understanding the value of knowledge discovery will facilitate the production of quality results while focusing on the work, rather than the workers.

Most importantly, it will enable you to set the foundation and build a system that will be improving continuously, while boosting the motivation and engagement of your team.

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