5 Simple Steps to Build a Visual Workflow

Jan 3, 2019
Post Masthead

Have you ever worked on a project without any real project management or process?

If you have, then you know what a mess it is.

Every individual team member is doing his or her own thing, at his or her own pace, with little communication or synergy.

No one has any idea who is working on what…

And project status? What’s that?!?

It goes without saying that this is a recipe for disaster.

Managing a project effectively requires a process.

However, there is such thing as too much process.

How Project Management Has Evolved

Believe it or not, clunky, complicated, and overly-complicated processes can wreak as much havoc on a project as a project without any process.

How is this possible? Many project managers and leaders believe that because today’s projects are complex, they need a complex process to manage it.

The growth and demand of technology has forced a level of design, out-of-the-box thinking, and problem-solving that not every professional is equipped or accustomed to handle.

In fact, according to a report published by the Project Management Institute (PMI), 71 percent of projects surrounding innovative technology development have become priorities.

Further research from PMI has also shown that $1 million is wasted every 20 seconds by organizations around the world due to poor implementation, rather than flawed strategy.

As a result, companies, organizations, and project stakeholders are looking for a quality product and quicker results more than ever before.

Needless to say, this really puts pressure on project managers—many of whom are often forced to do a lot more with less.

However, a successful project outcome—one that helps organizations reach their goals—really begins with solid—and simple—project management practices.

What is a Visual Workflow and Who is it For?

In order to keep up with organizational and project demands, the world of project management has implemented new philosophies, methodologies, and techniques into practice. One such technique is a visual workflow.

One of the reasons why a visual workflow works so well is that it is just that: visual. It provides a top-level view of all the steps involved in a particular task or process, making it incredibly easy for project managers and project team members to see the status of a particular project or task, the road blocks, and next steps.

Here are some reasons why a visual workflow works so well for project teams:

  • It adds visualization
  • It removes complexity
  • It is easy to learn, adopt, and implement
  • It requires significantly less time to implement
  • It lays a solid foundation for project success
  • It enables short-term and long-term planning
  • It increases productivity
  • It improves communication

What Do You Need to Build a Visual Workflow?

Building a visual workflow foundation only takes several days up to several weeks to implement, rather than weeks or even months like some other methodologies. It only requires a little planning, a few tools, and a meeting space.

Here is a short list of what you will need to build a visual workflow:

  • Clear meeting goals
  • A meeting space to meet (virtual or physical)
  • A whiteboard, eraser, markers
  • Post-it or sticky notes
  • Camera or note-taking method

Once you are armed with the tools and items you need, and have set aside 30 minutes of your time, you can now work with your team to build a visual workflow on your whiteboard.

5 Steps to Building a Visual Workflow

Now that you have your tools, your project team assembled into a meeting space, it’s time to begin building your visual workflow.

To help the process, you may want to assign a facilitator or note taker. The facilitator can be the project manager, or a project team member.

As the project manager or leader, your job is to ask project team members in the room (or on the conference line) for updates on the project tasks assigned to them. The note taker or facilitator can also make notes on the whiteboard and on sticky notes as project team members share their updates.

Step #1 – Write it Down.

With your markers, simply write down any and all outstanding tasks that need to get done on sticky notes. Be sure to write one task per sticky note.

Write the name of the task, the assignee, and the status. You don’t have to write a ton of details, just enough to keep the process moving and to easily see who is working on what, and the status of each task.

Step #2 – Make Columns.

Then, on your whiteboard, make columns for “TO DO,” “DOING,” and “DONE.” You can name your columns appropriately. Some team members prefer “BACKLOG,” “IN PROGRESS,” “BLOCKED,” and “COMPLETED.” All in all, write column names accordingly based on task status, or what makes the most sense for you and your team.

The goal is to group or categorize tasks into columns to get a high-level view of project and/or task status.

Step #3 – Stick Your Notes.

Now, place each sticky note with the task name and description and assignee in its appropriate column.

Step #4 – Observe and Assess.

Once you have finished putting all the sticky notes in the appropriate columns, take a minute or two to observe your board. You and your project team should now have a clear view of project status, as well as the status for each individual task.

Step #5 – Collaborate.

Now it is time to discuss each task, potential roadblocks, and the next steps in the project. It also encourages and spearheads conversations around tasks that face roadblocks or require in-depth discussions or problem-solving. It also gives the project manager an idea of the workload for each individual project team member.

All in all, the process of building a workflow doesn’t have to just fall on the project manager’s shoulders. In fact, you can make it a fun, enjoyable, and productive experience for you and your project team—no matter where they are.

A visual workflow is also a great way to encourage conversation, collaboration, problem-solving, and just get more sh*t done—the way project management should be.

Get More Done with a Visual Workflow

In summary, visual workflows can easily be adapted and implemented by any organization and utilized in any project.

By taking the time to implement a visual workflow, you are laying a solid foundation for improved communication, information exchange, resource allocation, problem-solving, short and long-term planning and increased productivity.

Finally, it’s important to remember that building a visual workflow is only the start. Other benefits to implementing a visual workflow are agility and adaptability to various projects, teams, and tasks, and the ability to evolve as the organization’s needs change.

Want to see how a visual workflow works for you? Check out Rindle today and get your team on board with a visual workflow as soon as tomorrow.