Workflow Breakdowns in Larger Firms: Why They Happen, What to Do About Them

Efficiency in business comes down to reaching goals with the highest degree of quality and speed possible. When workflow breaks down and this efficiency fails, it’s worth questioning why it happened and how to prevent it in the future.

The breakdown of workflow in our clients at larger firms comes down to a failure of two critical elements: communication and accountability. If your client companies are in this category, you’ll likely know what I mean. The question of course is what to do about it.

Ultimately, company goals require systems that define achievable steps, task responsibility, and deadlines. Every project member along the way has to be dedicated and held responsibly, and someone must be responsible for oversight and follow-through.

With workflow software, it becomes easier to remain on task, on time, and accountable since the schedule, assignments, and completion measurements are clear. This project management tool will also streamline projects and make completion far more efficient. For example, in my work with book publishers, the many steps along the way from editorial to the ultimate publication include proofreading, graphic design, interior typeface design, typesetting, double- and triple-checking, choice of paper quality, book jacket design and printing of actual book copies. Without the help of applicable workflow software, each of these steps along the way would be subject to human error and make the process longer, less accurate and fraught with frustration!

To efficiently complete any project, large or small, no matter what your industry, the following steps will allow you to reach a satisfactory end without wasting time, energy, or motivation:

  1. Any project plan should include delineated steps, assigned jobs, deadlines, and clear measurements of completion along the way. Poorly defined, loosey-goosey plans will lead to unclear, half-finished, pass-the-buck, efforts.

2. Every plan should be checked and double-checked for:

–One manager and decider

  • Strengths and weaknesses of team members and assignments
  • Relevance
  • Scheduling

3. Define the project point-by-point so as to eliminate unnecessary steps, erase repetitions within the process, reach the goal faster, and guide the right person toward the right task throughout the process.

Communication is key throughout any project. Consider the body: The brain knows what all parts are doing at one time. If the hands and feet, eyes and ears don’t coordinate, the body can’t move efficiently. Your team is the same. When communication breaks down, steps in the plan get done and redone, or not done at all, and the workflow breaks down.

In my world, the printing industry, proofreaders need to know how much time they have to complete their task, book cover designers need to know what the book is actually about so that the title and front and back cover designs deliver the right message, the publisher’s sales staff needs to know how close ultimate production will come to the pre-ordained book publication day etc. Only via continuous communication among all parties will ensure the entire operation runs smoothly.

Communication is essential and should be required. It’s up to the project manager to verify communication takes place, hold members accountable for this failing, and set the example for appropriate and timely communications.

The project manager should also keep an eye on the schedule, sending updates, checking in, and holding project members’ feet to the fire when tasks fall through.

In larger corporations, it’s easy for team members and project assignments to fall through the cracks. Workflow software helps project managers and team members know who’s doing what and when steps finish, so it’s an invaluable tool for companies seeking methods for protecting against workflow breakdown.