Optimizing Your Work Process To Get More Done (Without Stress)
Let’s be real: process optimization is not fun. Tell your team it’s time to revise your work processes, and you’re likely to get a lot of suppressed (or even blatant) eye-rolls.
But while it might not be fun, it is necessary. Why? Because you can’t keep repeating the same clunky processes and expecting different results. A smart guy once said that’s the definition of madness.
Not having enough work processes leads to disorganization and chaos. But too many bloated or rigid processes cause inefficiencies and information silos that lead to time wasted and money lost.
For your work processes to be effective, they need to evolve alongside your business. But how do you go about optimizing a work process?
This article will dive into what work processes are, why they matter, and how to optimize your work processes in eight easy steps to get more done with less stress.
What is a work process?
Let’s start with a work process definition. A work process is a standardized set of steps designed to accomplish tasks in the most effective and efficient way and help a company reach its goals.
The work processes a business might use vary from one industry to the next.
For example, work processes for a construction company might include things like:
- Laying the foundations
- Erecting the external structure
- Constructing and decorating the interior
- Selling the property
Whereas a work process for a marketing agency may look something like this:
- Defining campaign objectives
- Identifying the target audience
- Deciding which distribution channels to use
- Brainstorming and ideation
- Content planning
- Writing content briefs
- Hiring freelancers
- Overseeing content creation
- Monitoring and evaluation
While the specific processes will vary from company to company, work processes can be broadly divided into three main types: high-level, intermediate-level, and detail-level. Let’s take a closer look at each.
High-level work process
High-level work processes are the simplest type, based on the principle of a single input and output.
High-level processes work well for simple processes — for example, an employee submitting an expense to the finance department for approval.
However, a high-level process may also be the top level of a series of more complex sub-processes.
An example of this could be pitching to a potential client: the company delivers the pitch, and the client decides whether to hire them or not. While this is just one process, you need many other sub-processes to create and deliver the pitch successfully.
Intermediate-level work process
Intermediate-level work processes contain more detail than high-level processes and are necessary for more complex or collaborative projects.
In the client pitch example, the intermediate-level processes involved may include things like:
- Gathering information on the client’s competitors
- Creating a budget
- Writing the pitch
- Designing the presentation
- Delivering the pitch
- Following up with the client
- Closing the sale
Detail-level work process
As the name suggests, detail-level work processes describe the nitty-gritty details, such as:
- Supporting information
- Decision points
- Step ownership: for example, Claire will create the wireframe
- Step transitions
Why optimizing work processes matters
To put it simply, work processes affect your bottom line. In fact, inefficient work processes cause businesses to lose a jaw-dropping 20–30 percent of their revenue per year.
Most process problems stem from either too many or not enough processes. Not having enough clearly-defined processes — as is often the case for start-ups and small businesses — leads to chaos and confusion.
On the other hand, having excessively heavy or restrictive work processes — a common problem among enterprise-level companies — can make running your business like trying to ride a bike with the brakes on.
Both lead to inefficiency, which is why it’s essential to revisit and optimize your work processes regularly.
For example, if your team has a time management problem, it may be because a lack of clear process causes them to spend excess time looking for information or figuring out which steps to take.
Alternatively, cumbersome work processes may have become a burden, causing them to get bogged down in process instead of carrying out their core work.
In this scenario, an analysis of your work processes will show you which processes are getting in the way of minimizing your turnaround time and how you can improve them.
8 steps to optimizing your work processes
Ready to beat the business process blues? Follow these eight steps to optimize your work processes.
1. Analyze your current processes
“Let’s start at the very beginning,” as Julie Andrews famously sang. And in the case of work processes, the beginning is process analysis.
In other words, carry out a systematic review of your current work process. Since they can seem quite abstract, it can help to map everything out in flowcharts and create a visual representation of your processes.
2. Identify areas for improvement
Remember that your team members carry out your processes daily and are the experts on what works and what doesn’t. Give them the opportunity to provide input — you’ll probably gain valuable insights from them.
Visual representations of work processes — such as the flowcharts created in step one — can also help identify areas for process improvement, such as bottlenecks.
3. Map out new processes
Once you’ve identified which processes to optimize, you’ll need to design new processes to replace the old, inefficient ones.
Again, a flowchart can be a handy way to visualize how your processes will work. Include every step and highlight stages where feedback or manager approval is required.
Make sure to check in with your team for their feedback on the new processes.
4. Streamline your processes
Before you test your new processes, take another look at them with your whole team. At this stage, they’re still hypothetical, and there’s a chance you may create something overly complicated without realizing it. To streamline each workflow, break it down to no more than six high-level steps.
5. Document your processes
Even if you’re a freelancer or solo entrepreneur, you can’t expect to remember every single one of your processes by heart.
Not to mention that if you have even a small team, there’s a chance that some employees will leave — and you don’t want that knowledge to leave with them.
Documenting your processes is a reliable way to make sure that all team members follow the same steps. Make it easy for them to find the information they need by saving all your work process documents in one place.
6. Automate repeatable tasks
These days, many work processes are inefficient simply because they still rely on humans to carry out menial tasks that automation can handily take care of.
Across every industry and department, there are repetitive tasks that are always carried out by applying the exact same process. One example of this is the retail industry, where the automation of warehouse processes has increased efficiency, allowing companies to sell more products and increase their profits.
7. Test your new workflows
Before rolling out new processes across your entire company, it’s a good idea to test them to make sure they actually work.
Consider applying your new workflows to just one project or department and measuring their work performance. They should improve efficiency and help the company hit its KPIs — otherwise, you’ll have to go back to the drawing board.
8. Rinse and repeat
To keep your work processes working efficiently and your business running smoothly, you’ll need to regularly revisit your processes and make sure they’re still serving your needs. To achieve this, try making process reviews a quarterly activity.
How Stack can help improve your work processes
Optimizing your work processes is only part of the story. The other part is harnessing the right tech to keep your business running like clockwork.
Stack is the world’s first spatial browser, designed to help you organize your digital workspace for mindfulness and maximum productivity.
Here are just a few of the ways Stack can help you and your employees optimize your work processes by organizing your virtual work environment.
Organize tabs and apps by process with Spaces and Saved Cards
The Spaces feature allows you to separate tabs and apps into different projects or departments. For example, the weekly performance report checklist could have all your ad platforms, analytics tools, and more saved.
Within each Space, you can use Saved Cards to keep process documents and bug reports for easy access.
Navigate your workflows with Switch
Most work processes require working with a variety of apps, files, and platforms. But searching through hundreds of open windows and browser tabs can slow down the process, making it more inefficient (plus, it’s easy to get distracted by social media and cat videos).
Switch allows you to toggle directly between apps and tabs using the search function to jump seamlessly from one to the next.
Save time, money, and stress by optimizing your work processes
Process optimization may never become fun, but at least there are ways to make it less painful.
The key is to avoid thinking that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Instead, make a habit of regularly revisiting your workflows, and your business will run like a well-oiled machine.
At Stack, we believe efficiency begins with a well-organized workspace. That’s why we created Stack Next — to help you organize your digital environment and make the most of your work processes. Request access and take your productivity to the next level.