How do you visualize your process on a board to set your team up for success and get the most out of your data?

You might think: “Just create a few columns and add the names of your steps.”

Sounds like a simple thing to do, right? You’ll be astonished at how many teams do it wrong from the get-go.

Here’s the thing.

Visualizing your workflow is all about the process of knowledge discovery.

If you see your process steps as containers for people, you might hinder your ability to make reliable data-driven decisions and thus miss opportunities for improvement.

What‘s Mysteriously Missing Here

What’s wrong with this board?

What’s wrong with this board

First, there is a column called IT. IT is really not an activity. It’s more of a department. There is also a column called Sent to IT. Not really sure what that is either. Creative also sounds like a form of a department.

I’d like to give you some advice about naming columns. First, we want to use tense-free naming. We don’t want to use past tense or future tense. We just want a common approach to naming our columns. Each of our columns should have a unique name and each column should represent an activity.

What is mysteriously missing from this board?

It’s the Done column. The Done column is missing. Every team needs to have a Done column!

And if you want some inspiration about how to name your columns without putting emphasis on specialization, here is a strategy you can implement as early as tomorrow morning.

What Do Workflows Consist Of

Your workflows consist of activities. The keyword here is “activities.” When you string these activities together, they form your workflow. Let’s be clear about what activities are not:

Activities aren’t merely handoffs, disciplines, team members, departments, or software environments. They are none of those things. Activities truly revolve around collaboration. Think about how people naturally come together to get work done effectively.

A well-defined activity has a clear start and end. Consider two individuals closely collaborating yet coming from different disciplines. If it’s unclear when one person’s role ends and the other’s begins, you may not actually have two distinct activities, even if they belong to different departments or have different skills. If that’s the case, instead of using separate columns, you could consolidate them into one.

Activities frequently involve collaboration across disciplines and departments. I can’t emphasize this enough, your activities are all about managing the work itself, not just the individuals involved.

Here’s What Matters the Most

As leaders, what we genuinely care about is outcomes.

Are we achieving our goals, meeting our objectives, and attaining the desired outcomes – be it faster time-to-market, revenue increase or performance improvement?

The essential question is: are we reaching these outcomes? If not, we need to focus on the activities within our workflows that lead to these results.

And it’s okay if not every individual is constantly occupied as long as we keep hitting our targets.

Don’t get derailed!

Here’s my best advice: begin from a place of complete trust. Shift your focus from managing individuals to managing the work itself. Your teams have their own set of guidelines, goals, and deadlines. Assume, by default, that they’re aligned with the right objectives.

Your primary responsibility is to effectively manage the work and establish a decision-making framework that aligns with the needs of your business. This stands as the primary outcome of our Sustainable Predictability roadmap. Clear guidelines empower self-managed teams, granting them the autonomy to make decisions independently.

Your workflow should accurately reflect reality. The activities you visualize should mirror how people genuinely collaborate. Your aim is to present the current state of your workflow, not some aspirational future state.

Remember, it’s not about managing people; it’s all about managing the work!

That’s all for today my friend, thank you for tuning in. If this article got you thinking and sparked some ideas, I’d love for you to share it with others who could also gain something from this point of view.

I’m excited to join you next Thursday, same time and place, for more action-packed managerial insights. Bye for now!

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