Simplifying Work Flow Process Implementation

Jul 4, 2019 5:45:00 AM

By: Gerard Wood

In my career I have been part of developing workflow processes far too many times. All of these efforts to redo the workflow processes were done because of an assumption that the guys did not follow the process, because they did not understand it. It seems logical that if someone does not understand something then we should tell them harder with more and more detail. This of course makes it more and more complicated and there is less and less likelihood that the guys will or can follow the processes.

In fact during all of this work I realised that, at the detailed level, individuals picture the exact same process differently. However, I also learned that we can get 100% alignment at the high level and we can get 100% alignment on the required outputs of the process. This learning enabled me to simplify the implementation of workflow process. By focusing on the outputs of the process that we all agree on (at the high level) we can ensure that the process delivers on its intent. For example, we all agree that the planning and scheduling process should deliver the parts, tools, information and equipment to be ready to go at the time the tradespeople turn up to do the work. It should also enable them to do the work efficiently without conflicting interactions on the plant. “Everyone” agrees with this!

Of course, we need to provide documentation and training on how the systems work but allowing flexibility at the detailed level, as long as these deliverable's are met, enables people to achieve the outcomes or at least keep improving until they do achieve the outcomes.

Trying to document the workflow process at a detailed level and get everyone to have common understanding is almost impossible. I have seen people draw the process one way and others in the same meeting draw it in another way as it is in their head. I.e. Some people combine tasks into one step in their mind where others see them as separate tasks.

I developed this simplified work management process flow which is effectively the same for every business performing maintenance. This is the level of detail where alignment is required. We also need to have working agreements (team alignment) on the outputs from each section. Let the people be flexible on how they deliver the outputs but have no flexibility on the expected deliverables. So for the planning process we can all agree on how the work packs look, when they will be delivered, what they contain, where the parts will be staged, when the parts will be delivered to the worksite etc.

 

 

 

It is simple to get clarity and alignment and the teams can effectively work together when you allow flexibility at the detailed level but no flexibility on the agreed outputs from each part o the process.