15 Ways to Ensure Bad Workflow

By Mike Raia | Published January 14, 2021

By the time we start talking to folks about how we can help them improve and automate their workflow, they've often been through the wringer in terms of solutions. They've tried things like using manual workflow, leveraging existing software, building custom solutions, and investing in software that is "kinda-sorta" workflow automation. Sometimes they've tried all of these things.

We went back through several conversations to unearth some of the worst things we've heard. Names have been withheld to protect the innocent and we've paraphrased where necessary.

Send a LOT of emails and use "Reply all" as much as possible. Examples of emails to send: "What's going on with this?" "Who's working on this?" "I HAVE A CRITICAL CHANGE!!!"

Accept requests from as many channels as possible instead of centralizing them. Slack? Sure! Phone call? Why not? Morse code? We'll have to brush up on that!

Let everyone decide for themselves, in the moment, what the steps should be and who should be responsible for them.

Add variety by trying a different workflow process every time. Wait to see what goes wrong. 

Make sure to involve people who have no actual role or oversight in the process.

Keep critical parts of the process a secret and deflect when asked about them.

Don't enforce any rules or hold anyone accountable. No one likes to be told what to do.

Make sure all forms are paper-based and have to be scanned.

Store all the documents related to your process in cryptically-named nested folders on a shared drive. It's like a daily scavenger hunt!

Have IT design a single-purpose, in-house application to automate your processes and fail to document any of it.

Try using the latest, slick checklist or project management application that doesn't actually have workflow but has a really hip name and perky YouTube commercial.

Switch to Excel because no one actually likes the slick checklist or project management application, but "everyone knows Excel."

Invest in a costly and complicated BPM solution that does what you want along with 17,000 other things you'll never need and takes months to learn.

So, in summary, there are a lot of ways to do workflow poorly. Let this list be a cautionary tale about some of the worst practices so you can focus on the best. For some examples of best practices, check out some of our other blog posts like these:

bad process   approval workflow   process   design a process   Business Process Management   55 features   featured  

Workflow Ideas   Industry Focus   Productivity Tips  

Mike Raia

Marketing the world's best workflow automation software and drinking way too much coffee. Connect with me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelraia/