Understanding Workflow Management

The organisation’s role in workflow management

In the ideal situation:

  • The organisation invites staff to regularly participate in planning and review processes and encourages their ideas for improvement.
  • The organisation consults staff on issues such as job role, workload, working hours, level of autonomy and the impact of organisational change.
  • The organisation has formal, continuous improvement processes in place to encourage innovation. Each business unit has qualitative and quantitative indicators of success.

The manager’s role in workflow management

In the ideal situation:

  • Managers apply the principles and processes of continuous improvement and innovation.
  • Managers direct, monitor and control the workflow of their team and provide guidance and support when problems arise.

The individual’s role in workflow management

In the ideal situation:

  • Individuals have the skills, resources and time to complete tasks to a satisfactory standard.
  • Individuals work autonomously but can also seek support or guidance when needed.
  • Individual’s tasks match their skills and interests.

The litmus test for workflow management

Some important questions to ask about your organisation:

  • Has the organisation audited its workflow processes to optimise efficiency and encourage improvement and innovation?
  • Do managers and their staff work together to identify and resolve workflow problems that do not contribute to a positive work environment?
  • Are customers getting what they want, when they want it?


Measures that may be useful for confirming the quick check tool results or monitoring cultural change could include:

  • Unscheduled absence days
  • Unscheduled absence rate

A Dictionary of People Metrics

Case Study: Sharing the Workload

Hepburn Research Institute was well known for being a positive place to work but this had not always been the case. The evolutionary change in workflow, job assignment and organisation during the past four years had occurred not through an administrative mandate but through staff initiative. They had seized the opportunity to work more collaboratively both within the institute and with associates in other organisations. This meant that work was more streamlined, more focused and more fun. Staff got to work with different colleagues

on new research projects. They learnt new skills and gained a broader understanding of the institute’s functions. They were less stressed at work because of a fairer sharing of the workload and always having someone to help out with any difficult problems. Sometimes just talking about a problem would lead to new and innovative solutions.

The manager, Martin echoes the views of his staff when he says: ‘Everyone here helps to foster trust, dedication and loyalty by recognising each other’s valuable contribution. This has created a work environment that allows us to deliver quality research products and services to our customers.’

By acquiring new professional skills, staff members remain at the leading edge of research while also fulfilling their personal ambitions. The institute holds planned and impromptu special events to reward employees for reaching goals and acknowledges their achievements at monthly meetings. Staff members understand how their contribution has had a positive impact on the institute’s work.

Further Resources for Workflow Management