As we did in the last lesson, we will start with the definition of the word “Workflow”.
According the New Oxford dictionary, a Workflow is “the sequence of industrial, administrative, or other processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion.”
This definition is nearly perfect for our purposes here. Again, it is necessarily broad because of the many areas of life where the word can be used effectively.
So, we will again simplify and narrow the definition so it fits perfectly in our Business System hierarchy.
All we are are going to do this time is strike the words “industrial” and “administrative” from the definition.
So our official definition for Business Workflows is something like this:
Now that we have a good definition for what a workflow is, it’s time to talk a little about why this definition helps us build systems later on down the road.
Just like the word “Systems”, the first part of our definition, “The sequence of processes through which”, give us the structure of our workflows. And the second part of our definition, “a piece of work passes from initiation to completion”, gives us the purpose of our workflows.
Those two pieces together give us a working understating of how our workflows will be built.
First, we know that a workflow is going to be built out as a sequence of processes. That’s the structure.
Second, we know that the sequence of process will be designed to take a piece of work from “To Do” to “Done”. That’s the purpose of a workflow.
So each workflow will have a very specific and measured outcome because each piece of work will need to follow through each process to be considered “completed”.
Let’s use another example to illustrate what this might look like.
Let’s say you are working on a workflow for creating “Standard Operating Procedures” or “SOPs” for your business as documentation for staff.
Let’s also assume that the best way to document a process for creating these SOPs is to record the process via video.
*Psst! This is totally true!*
So the workflow needs to take the recorded video, which would be our “To Do” or our “Piece of Work” and turn it into a completed “Standard Operating Procedure” that’s documented and organized in our company wiki.
That’s a very specific outcome.
So what might this sequence of processes look like?
Well first, You might need to have a process for Transcribing the video, so you have the text needed for the steps of the process.
You might then need to have a process for Extracting screenshots from the video so you have photos or animations showing the detailed steps of the process.
Next you might need a process for Building the document out of the resources created from the last two processes.
Then you might need a process for Quality Review so a senior staff member or perhaps a staff member responsible for that specific process can review the document for accuracy.
Then you might need a process for Publishing & Organizing the document into the company wiki.
At which point you would have a workflow that successfully takes our recorded process from “recoding our video” to “having the document published on our company wiki”.
Hopefully, now you can see how a Business Workflow is nothing more than a sequence of process through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion.
In our example, the specific outcome of the workflow was to have a Standard Operating Procedure published into the correct place on our company wiki.
This outcome is achieved by taking our “piece of work”, which in this case was the recorded process, and moving it through a sequence of processes designed to create our desired end result, which was our published SOP.
All of this leads us down the path of our language hierarchy to the word “Process”.
Defining this word will give us more clarity for the above definition and help us understand the actual work that needs to be done in each component part of our Workflows.
Join me in the next lesson where we will cover this word in depth.