A Backwards Walk Through Your Workflow

We sometimes get a little too comfortable in our routine. We forget the motive for our actions or how the pieces we produce fit in to the larger whole. Without taking the time every once in a while to refresh your perspective the efficiency of your workflow may suffer, as well as, the quality of your end product. One exercise I find particularly useful is that of walking backwards through your workflow. Reconsidering how projects are developed or products created from another angle often reveals weaknesses as well as opportunities for new approaches.

First, it is best to define a workflow. For our purposes here workflow should be interpreted to mean:

The people, process and strategy involved in getting work done.

Now, choose one project and start at the "end" with the customer. Consider their experience with your work - what motivated them to seek you out, what were their needs and requests, what kind of feedback (if any) did they give you? Keeping those customer centric factors in mind begin to retrace the steps back to the original communication. At each phase/step/exchange consider these three questions:

1. Were the required elements effectively/correctly received from the preceding step?

2. Were the customer's needs & overall goal reaffirmed or conveyed in the exchange?

3. Was the person(s) responsible for that phase able to explain the purpose/function of the step/phase directly before and after theirs? 

The answers to these questions can reveal where there may be a break down in communication, which can lead to errors or slow downs. It can also teach you a lot about your own position within the mix. Use what you learn to refresh your routine and think of ways to improve how you do what you do. Walking backwards through your workflow may take some time but the results can truly reinvigorate your workflow strategy and lead to improvements you otherwise may not have known were necessary.