While brainstorming with my team on how to implement our change management process, I found myself drawing our workflow. Nobody told me to do it. Nobody stopped me either. I drew boxes on the whiteboard to represent each step and linked those boxes through arrows as we identified the sequence. After we were satisfied with it, one of our team members took a photo of our diagram and immediately transferred our visualized workflow onto our Kanban board.
We could have enumerated the process steps as a list. Instead, we chose to visualize our workflow. Why is that?
The Power of Workflow Visualization
Studies show that the human brain can process images 60,000 times faster than text. Come to think of it, when we hear or read words, we often think of a visual representation of the word. Sometimes we even think of a memory. Humans are naturally visual by nature. And we can use this natural phenomenon to improve the way we work.
Workflow visualization is a powerful tool to increase productivity in teams. If you’re curious about why you should use workflow visualization, here are five compelling reasons to do so.
5 Reasons to Use Workflow Visualization
Visualizing your workflow will increase transparency for your team. With workflow visualization, it’s easier to see how work is progressing and where things are getting stalled. This heightened transparency also promotes accountability and helps motivate teams. It also makes it easier to see what the team is working on any time. Managers and stakeholders can refer to the team’s workflow visualization board at any time. Discussions will be more focused and targeted in case there are clarifications.
Workflow visualization helps teams reduce ambiguity on what’s really important. When we try to visualize our to-do’s using a list, it’s easy to assume that the ones listed first are more important. But that’s not always the case. When you represent work using a visualization tool, like a Kanban board, it’s easier to prioritize and re-prioritize tasks. If the team needs to take on more work on top of their current backlog, they can easily see what the impact of that additional work will be. Workflow visualization will help in making decisions when resource capacity is limited.
Workflow visualization helps teams collaborate more effectively. In a normal to-do list, we only enumerate the name of the task. But with a workflow visualization tool such as an online Kanban board, you can do more than just listing our tasks. Each task is represented by a Kanban card where you can extensively define the requirements of each task. you can also add due dates, task assignees, and even file attachments. Most online Kanban boards also come with built-in commenting features within task cards and boards. This helps teams communicate and collaborate more effectively as they work. An online Kanban board effectively becomes an extension of the team’s work.
Workflow visualization also surfaces bottlenecks and impediments. This pushes teams to swarm towards those problems and resolve them. And when bottlenecks are removed, the work will flow smoothly again.
Help Remote Teams Stay In Sync
More teams are working remotely, especially when the pandemic started. Workflow visualization tools help bridge teams and keep them connected and on the same page regardless of their geographic distance. When doing video conferencing, it’s easy to pull up your Kanban board and discuss the team’s work. Any team member can go to the online Kanban board and see what tasks are still pending so they can pick those up. Any change on the task cards happens in real-time. Teams can even refer to the history of each task card and its comments to refer to past decisions and actions made by the team members.
Push for Continuous Improvement
High performing teams reflect on how they work – their processes, systems, technologies – through a focused discussion or meeting. In some methodologies, like Scrum, this is called a retrospective. But you can refer to it as any meeting that occurs on a regular cadence where your team discusses how you can improve your workflow. We can call it process improvement meetings.
When teams use workflow visualization, it makes it easier to spot improvement opportunities. It’s easier to measure progress and success. During your process improvement meetings, you can pull up your Kanban board and reflect on how work flowed in the more recent timeframe. Were there any bottlenecks encountered? Was any team member overburdened with work? How can you make tasks flow much faster and more smoothly?
When you start conversations with a visual tool handy, it’s easier for team members to speak up and share their thoughts. Your workflow visualization tool helps teams recall past performance and work done. It also helps them imagine how the workflow could behave if some things were changed or improved.
Kanban Board: Your Workflow Visualization Tool
A Kanban board is an effective workflow visualization tool. Interestingly enough, visualizing your workflow is the first step in implementing a Kanban system. Kanban is an effective method to use with your current process if you want to improve how you manage your workflow and help your teams improve their focus and productivity.
If you’re new to Kanban, you can refer to our step-by-step guide to creating your Kanban board so you can create your workflow visualization tool today.
Visualize Workflow with Kanban
Peter Drucker said, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”
I highly agree with him. But before you can even start measuring your process, you need to visualize it first. You need to have a representation of how your current process is. With this in hand, you can identify the start and end of each process and scope your data gathering and measurement based on it. From there, you can start charting a new and improved workflow for your team.
You can use Kanban to start visualizing your workflow and help your teams spot problems faster so you can focus on building better solutions and systems. Let workflow visualization enable your team to be proactive when it comes to continuous improvement and innovation.