In this episode of Workflow, Brian and Tom talk about the benefits of visualizing your work versus traditional task lists.
00:50 What’s happening at Rindle (Tom’s back from vacation, group meeting scheduling)
06:25 What does it mean to visualize your work?
09:57 The challenges with lists
21:03 The benefits of visualizing your work
36:13 Tips for taking action
Tom: 00:00 This is “Workflow” episode nine.
Brian: 00:14 “Workflow” is the podcast that helps teams figure out the best way to work, collaborate, and get stuff done. Brought to you by Rindle.
Tom: 00:28 Hey, everyone, I’m Tom.
Brian: 00:29 I’m Brian.
Tom: 00:30 We’re the co-founders of Rindle, and this is our podcast “Workflow”. Today we’re talking about the benefits of visualizing your work. Before we get started, what’s going on? I know I was on vacation last week, so I just got back, but what’s been going on with you Brian?
Brian: 00:50 I guess the first question is how was your vacation?
Tom: 00:51 It was good. This was the first vacation that we’ve taken with two children now, and vacation with kids is different type of vacation, but it was still fun. We had a lot of fun and relaxing at times, I guess.
Brian: 01:10 Do you need a vacation for your vacation?
Tom: 01:12 Basically, yeah. Yeah.
Brian: 01:15 Nice. Well, we’re happy to have you back Tom.
Tom: 01:18 Thanks. Happy to be back.
Brian: 01:22 I actually recorded a podcast with Asia, who is involved with our marketing, and in your absence. We actually got an extra episode in, but it will air actually after this episode. It will be new and something new for you to listen to as well.
Tom: 01:40 Yeah. I’m excited.
Brian: 01:42 You weren’t in on the recording.
Tom: 01:44 Yep. I have no idea what it’s about either, so I’m super excited.
Brian: 01:49 We talked about what it’s like when you’re not really a great PM, and how you deal with that. Especially owning a business and freelancing or working inside a marketing department. She had some really interesting insight, so I think it will be a great episode. Anyway, there’s one thing that just my personal workflow-wise thing I noticed is that I use Acuity Scheduling for booking meetings and things like that. I find it a lot easier than going back and forth in an e-mail or whatever trying to track down a time where you’re both available. Then the normal thing where it’s like, “Send me what time you’re available next week,” and then they send a bunch of times. You’re not available any of those times, so you send them a bunch of times. Right? All that happens.
Brian: 02:33 Used Calendly originally then switched to Acuity Scheduling just for a couple feature reasons and noticed that I still have a real big pain point with group meetings. Not necessarily webinars or trainings or anything like that. It’s really just group meetings, meaning more than one person other than myself, so three people. Trying to coordinate a meeting between the writer, the head of marketing, and myself. Still have to manually coordinate those times, so I guess maybe this is a plea for those apps to add … Maybe they’re working on it. Who knows? Add something so it can just be more than one person. If I don’t know about that already, then I need to know that.
Tom: 03:17 Sounds like calendars, as popular as calendaring apps are, they’re still a lot of problems to be solved in the calendaring world.
Brian: 03:28 Yeah. Just the back and forth is just … Especially when you get one other person involved. You have two people, it’s fine. You can even hop on a phone if you want to work it out quicker. When you have a third party, it’s just now you got to coordinate. Whoever’s in charge of setting the meeting has to now deal with two people’s schedules. It’s just really sort of time waste. It really is. I would find that to be pretty important from that perspective just because I feel like I waste a lot of time in a given week doing that. It’s only really an issue when you have an external party. If we have something inside Rindle, I can use the availability feature in Google Calendar, and I can look at people’s calendars and say, “Okay. Yep. All three of these people are available. Book the meeting,” which I used to use all the time. Even in previous companies. When you have an external person, freelancer, contractor, client, whatever it might be, that’s you have no access to their calendar unless they’ve given it to you, and you have to ask. It’s just a painful conversation. It’s only in that scenario. Maybe it’s not as big of a pain point as I think it is, but we deal with a lot of externals. Maybe it’s a bigger pain point for me than it is for other people.
Tom: 04:46 Very true. Cool. Well, if it doesn’t exist, we should create it.
Brian: 04:51 There we go. New product idea.
Tom: 04:54 There you go.
Brian: 04:54 Before we get started, if you have questions, topic ideas, team scenarios that you want us to break down, please give us a call at our voicemail number at 860-577-2293. We love questions, or you can e-mail us at email@example.com.
Tom: 05:12 Awesome. Also, please leave us a review. It helps us reach more people, and it also keeps us motivated.
Brian: 05:19 Cool. Shall we move onto the main topic?
Tom: 05:22 We shall. We’re talking about the benefits of visualizing your work.
Brian: 05:28 Yeah. We talked about in episode four a baseline workflow for your team. When we talked about that workflow, it was in a more visual approach just because that’s what we promote, that’s what we use internally, and we used a lot of different methods. That’s what we like the best, but what we didn’t talk about was the actual benefits of working visually. We just kind of said, “Well, this is a great workflow.” Obviously you could run that left to right in a visual type sense that we referenced in that episode, or you can run it top down if you wanted to. There is definitely advantages to running it in that visual nature compared to more traditional lists that we’re used to using, so we thought talking about that and actually discussing the benefits of why you might want to consider visualizing your work over just doing more traditional lists.
Tom: 06:25 You kind of explained it, but maybe we should dive in a little deeper. When you say, “Visualize your work,” what exactly do you mean?
Brian: 06:31 Really what we’re talking about is the difference of a workflow that runs left to right, horizontally, where each list typically represents a step in a process versus a traditional checklist that runs top down vertically and normally those don’t really represent steps. They’re more of batching or organization groupings. Not that one can’t exist in the other, but that’s just typically how it is. Then the tasks typically move left to right in progressive manner compared to in a list where it typically stays in that grouping or that list until it’s done. It doesn’t necessarily or typically move through multiple lists in that kind of top down approach.
Brian: 07:23 Really, that kind of visual nature was really made popular by Kanban methodology. Kanban is basically a visual way of managing projects. It’s widely adopted in software dev teams. That’s really where I adopted it originally, and Tom yourself, doing software development projects. Now it’s definitely moved on to other teams like marketing and other kinds of departments as well. It’s really expanding. Even our own visual workflow webinar that we did, we’re even taking that a step back from Kanban because Kanban has its own methodology and aspects to it that you have to follow if you’re “following Kanban”. Just the visual nature of work, a more simplistic approach of visualizing your work, moving it left to right, and kind of the benefits of that.
Tom: 08:14 My take on this is that visualizing work enables you to have multiple states to work. A traditional list, as you say, is very binary so that the item is either done or it’s not done. That’s basically all there is to it, right? Just by adding the element of lists in rows, if you will, you automatically get this added depth of you can organize stuff and you can move it through some sort of “workflow” until it’s actually done.
Brian: 08:57 I think when we talk about visualizing like you’re saying, like compared to a list, you’re getting more information when you look at it. Somebody could say, “Yeah, lists are visual too. I’m looking at it, I’m reading it, I see it. It’s organized into lists,” but when we talk about actually, like you’re saying, being binary in a list and kind of just having a step of incomplete or complete, now we’re moving them through stages. We can visually grasp that information very quickly. I think that’s the main thing when you prepare something that’s a visual workflow versus something that’s not is that you can get a whole bunch more information by looking at something in 30 seconds than you can in any other kind of method.
Tom: 09:36 Absolutely. Yeah, because very rarely, at least when it comes to any more complicated tasks, are they just either done or not done. Right? Unless it’s the simplest of things, there’s probably multiple people involved, and it’s going to be more complicated than it just being done.
Brian: 09:57 I think the best way to chat further about this, because we’re even starting to get into them now, but what are the challenges with lists? I mean, lists have been around since earlier than even Kanban was thought of back in the Toyota days. People have been using checklists forever. What are the challenges that come with using lists?
Tom: 10:22 First, I think that they don’t really encourage collaboration across the team.
Brian: 10:27 I think the main reason for that is that again you have a kind of one-dimensional binary entry into a list. You can’t really see much about that without digging into that and seeing more information. With something like a visual workflow where things are moving all the time from left to right in different columns, it is actually enhancing the collaboration aspect with your team. When you’re talking about things, you’re like, “Oh, yeah. That’s in progress,” or, “That’s blocked. Let’s talk about that.” All of these things are happening because of the workflow as opposed to just a static list where it’s like, “Wait, what task are you talking about and why?” You just don’t see as much information; therefore, it doesn’t really enhance or promote the collaboration aspect of working as a team.
Tom: 11:17 Let’s give a real example of that. Just this morning on our call actually we started off in the back log. We were trying to get caught up because I had been on vacation, so we were trying to get caught up and back up to speed. We looked at the back log. We ran through that, and then we jumped over to our blocked column. Then we jumped through the items quickly on that list. Then we were basically done. Once we had finished those two things, we were up to speed, and everyone was on the same page.
Brian: 11:48 I think that when you see things in checklists too, as far as collaboration, it’s kind of like, “Oh, that’s assigned to Tom, so I don’t need to worry about that.” Where, I don’t know, for some reason when I see it in a workflow, it’s like, ” It’s our work.” Even though you’re responsible for that, it’s kind of like our workflow. You’re always looking at everybody’s stuff, not just your own. I think that’s the collaboration aspect too. It’s like where you assigned tasks on a list, it’s like, “Well, these are assigned to me, and those are assigned to you, so let’s go do our tasks.” When we have the workflow, it’s really like, “Well, I’m looking at everything all the time, and I have real good pulse about what’s going on across the entire team, not just myself.”
Tom: 12:28 It’s interesting because you can very quickly also just eliminate a list if you want because like … For example, we have a front and a back end list just to keep things a little organized. I sometimes just completely ignore the front end list because I know that Scott’s going to be handling that stuff, so I just don’t even worry about it. It’s still there. I can still have a pulse on how many things are in there. Basically, this enables you to quickly visualize things in however you might want to visualize it.
Brian: 12:59 Cool. Another challenge is that lists typically require a lot of reading to fully come up to speed. When you think about lists, task lists, or everybody is familiar with Excel spreadsheets, that’s my favorite comparison, but if you have 50 rows or 100 rows of tasks in an Excel spreadsheet, you’re literally look at a block of text. Even if you are using columns inside an Excel sheet and using different fields to track different things, you still have to process of all of those texts and numbers and all of that stuff to understand what’s going on. It’s just a lot more reading to get caught up where, again, you’re hopefully capturing a lot more when you visually look at something like a visual workflow over a block of text.
Tom: 13:47 Yeah. Humans are really visual creatures. We look at things. We like to look at patterns and still obviously anything visual is going to be beneficial over just static text, right?
Brian: 14:00 … going to be beneficial over just static text, right, in a block of text right? How hard is it, often, when you just have, like, a block of text to even read it when it’s just paragraphs? That’s why you break things into smaller paragraphs.
Tom: 14:15 Yeah, and every time, too, you reference that back, you have to process, typically, that information all over again, depending on what you’re looking for and what you’re trying to find out. But, where again, in a visual workflow, you might be looking for a different thing the next time, but because of the visual nature of it and the different steps and the stage in the process, it just makes it easier to get to whatever information you’re looking for, without having to process the entire workflow.
Tom: 14:45 Depending on what you’re looking for, you could have to actually process the whole thing again in order to figure out what you’re looking for, which is just a huge time solver.
Brian: 14:53 Sure. And I guess the other challenge with the list is that there’s no real visual cues to distinguish between the high priority and low priority work. Obviously, there’s an order that it’s in. But I mean depending on what you’re using it might not be really easy to rearrange that order. I guess also you could somehow color-code it, but, again, most tools unless it’s specifically meant for it, it’s not easy to do.
Tom: 15:19 Yeah I think an Excel sheet example is obviously moving a row from the bottom to the top. Or the middle to the top, if that’s how you’re doing it. That is a manual process. You actually have to move the whole row, and insert the row, so that’s a little annoying, and then if you are using a traditional to-do list with multiple lists, different things to do, those are grouped by category, not by priority. And it’s not natural to look at it as a visual workflow. It’s more natural to insert a list there. If it’s important, you can have a list called “priority.” Or a step in your process called “priority for today,” or something, right? Or “Urgent.” Or things that are important to your workflow that you can actually pull out, and leverage. So it’s a little easier to kind of prioritize it in that nature, depending on your workflow.
Brian: 16:11 So the next one is actually list views typically don’t show you a completed task, it actually normally disappears so most to-do lists or task management software out there, when you mark it off, it goes away, right? Which a lot of people do expect. Which is good in some ways because that’s done, I don’t want to see it anymore, and things like that. But if you’re working in a collaborative environment, sometimes you do want people to see that it’s done, and by nature something like more of a kanban board structure where you’re moving things left to right, you can have a step called “done,” where you can have that.
Brian: 16:48 Especially in something like Rindle, where we don’t make it disappear by default when you mark it complete. It can actually stay there, we do have automations and other things you can do to make it disappear if you want to, but if you’re in a collaborative environment sometimes you do want, “Hey, I actually did this, it’s done, and I want the rest of my team to see that it’s done before it disappears.” So there’s no confusion.
Brian: 17:09 And I actually had this with you on our B3 board when we were working on that, and I had moved something to Done and then archived it right away and the next day, or the next morning you kind of said, “Where’d that task go?” And you kind of missed the status of that because I just made it disappear.
Brian: 17:29 So I think there’s some disadvantages there because a lot of task lists by default just make it go away. So again, maybe for a personal task list that works really well, because you’re not collaborating, but once you’re in a collaborative environment you’re sharing with other people, or you’re working on things with other people, it’s maybe a disadvantage.
Tom: 17:48 Cool, yeah. But with all of this said lists actually do have use cases. I mean, I can think of a lot of use cases just right off the top of my head. Like a grocery list is a perfect example of something that is a list that is useful, but it’s not useful necessarily for things that relate to teams, right?
Tom: 18:11 And I think that’s the important differentiator, where a list might be perfectly valid for very simple tasks that need to get done, like on an individual level, but as soon as the team gets involved, I think that they kind of go by the wayside very quickly.
Brian: 18:34 Yeah, I mean that’s exactly why we built this view into Rindle. I mean we are proponents of the more kanban workflow style but we understand that list view has its uses. And the grocery list is like the universal best example you can give, spot-on. But any kind of checklist that, I think you’re right, if you’re not collaborating or anything like that and it’s just a punch-list, I think they’re actually easier to use than workflows, because you’re doing a lot of work to set up kind of a left-to-right workflow, and moving the tasks along when it probably doesn’t justify it. Where you’re really just saying, I gotta remember to do these ten things, and it’s kind of a “Check, check, check, check, check, we’re done.” And you’re out. So I think those are actually better in a lot of cases. So, definitely some good use cases for that. I think in a team environment it’s a little more challenging, though arguably there are many platforms out there that just have task lists, right, and just have top-down vertical lists. So obviously it’s working for some teams but that’s kind of what we see at least as being kind of the downside of checklists versus the visual workflow.
Tom: 19:43 Yeah. I mean, I could still think of scenarios where you’d want to use it in a team environment. But again, it is very much for simpler things. More defined structured tasks.
Brian: 19:58 Yeah, and of course it could work. I mean I’ve done it. We’ve done it. You and I have done it together at previous companies. So it’s not that it can’t be done. Obviously it can be done, people do it and people are probably really happy using it. Just having done that compared to a visual workflow, the visual workflow just the understanding that you get from looking at the different stages in the process and be able to have that unique flow for each type of work that you’re doing and things like that, I think is a huge advantage.
Brian: 20:28 Where just the top-down vertical approach, even though it’s very similar in structure, it’s lists, right, and you have tasks in each list, you could say that a list in vertical list is a step. But it just doesn’t work as well. And typically the list views only show the task name and a little bit of other information and it doesn’t really work moving it from list to list down the page. Where just left to right just seems to work better. So, just in a comparison alone, and we’re about to get into it, the benefits of why visualizing your work in our opinion is better than listing it.
Tom: 21:03 So let’s hop right into it.
Brian: 21:05 You know we have a lot of people giving us feedback even on feature requests and things like that, how they want to work, and a lot of it is based in visual light. Like seeing things in a calendar view. Seeing things in timeline views, right? And we talk about this stuff a lot with our customers and just people we talk about in general around work. And people have been trying to visualize stuff for decades, you know, years, just trying to put things in graphs, and all these visual ways of showing something easier, right?
Brian: 21:35 So why not workflows, right? Why not the actual thing you’re working in every day. Why not visualize your process over not visualizing it, right? And not getting all that added benefit of kind of getting more information in a glimpse or a glance.
Tom: 21:51 Yeah. It’s interesting you bring that up, ’cause we do have a lot of people talk to us about like, “oh, are you guys gonna ever build a Gantt chart, right?” And a kanban board is actually, if you do research about Gantt charts, is actually an alternative to a Gantt chart. Because of its visual nature, right? Obviously it’s not doing it in a timeline, but you do have lists and columns that basically you have dated, right? And you’re seeing that in a visual capacity.
Brian: 22:28 Yeah well this is like a whole ‘nother topic. But that’s why even our own discussions about that feature request, you know, Gantt is a way to manage projects, right? You can use Gantt as a dedicated tool, right? You don’t need anything else. Where that’s where we kind of came down to the decision that if we ever build something like that, which we’d love to one day, it’s probably gonna be more of a timeline than it is a necessarily a Gantt chart, because Gantt is directly competing with a kanban or a visual-type workflow which we already have, or even a list view, right? But kanban is a way to visualize the work already, and Gantt offers a whole bunch of project management stuff on top of that which we already have, right? So really what the request is, yes, I love kanban workflow, I love moving tasks left to right, but I also have due dates and stuff, and I’d love to see that over time.
Tom: 23:18 Yep.
Brian: 23:19 And that’s where we’re like, ah, maybe really what we need to build eventually is a timeline view and not really focus on Gantt, even though I think a lot of people inherently ask for Gantt because that’s the buzz word that they understand. And that’s been a popular word for years.
Tom: 23:34 Well and that’s what they’re really kind of looking for, they’re looking for this timeline view, if you will, of tasks and how they fall visually, yeah.
Brian: 23:47 So all that said, you know, that’s why I find it so interesting that we focus a lot, and I know a lot of people focus a lot on, how do I take the projects that I’m working on and the tasks that I’m doing for my team, and how do I visually show that so I can understand it in different ways. And I think we think about that typically as calendar and timelines and Gantts but I’m kind of challenging everybody to think about the workflow in the same light. You know, why are we not always visualizing our workflows because that’s easier for everybody on the team? Not only are team members working in the trenches with you every day, but also managers and other stakeholders to come in and be able to look at a board, like in Rindle, or a kanban board, or anything like whatever you have even if it’s a post-it board, a whiteboard with post-it notes. To be able to look at something and understand it, as opposed to looking at a block of text, right? And I think that’s really where some of the benefits already start happening and I think people in general need to think about their workflow in the same light as they think about visual ways to display their projects.
Tom: 24:55 And I think maybe a little clarification needs to be made there. So when you say anyone to be able to look at something and see the workflow, you kind of mean the columns that are there, right? So you have tasks that are in these different columns, and those columns are more or less the workflow in the simplest of workflows. It would just be on one board and here are the steps that tasks go through ultimately to become complete. And anyone should be able to come in and be like, okay, yeah, this makes sense, like I have three columns and ultimately I’m trying to get to that last column. And this is how many items are in each of them. So it’s really easy, again, to visualize it and to understand that workflow.
Brian: 25:45 Yeah. And ultimately that’s a benefit, right? That’s a benefit of the visualization is actually starting to see the process. As opposed to in a more traditional to-do list, if somebody from the outside looked in they don’t really see the process, they just see a bunch of tasks. However logically it might be grouped. But they’re not seeing a logical step by step where they can look at it and say, “Ah, I can kind of understand what’s currently being worked on versus what’s on hold, or versus what’s being tested,” or whatever your workflow is.
Brian: 26:16 It’s just logical where anybody from the outside looking in can really kind of get a general feel of what’s going on without asking a bunch of questions.
Tom: 26:24 Yeah, so in, again, traditional list-based task management softwares, a lot of times the software will have an actual status, if you will. Which will be like, a dropdown that has like … what the status of that task is.
Brian: 26:44 Right, like low-medium-high or something like that.
Tom: 26:45 Sure, the priority or could be what department it’s assigned to. It could be whatever. But that’s a static field. Or, not a static field. I guess it is a static field, within that task itself. As opposed to it being like, the list said that are basically representing the same thing. And you see it visually, right? So you see like, okay, there’s 20 things in “To-Do” and there’s 10 things in “Doing” and then there’s a bunch of things in “Done.” Traditionally you’d have to go into each one of those tasks and set that status and then how are you gonna see that, right? Like oh, maybe there’s a search that allows you to sort by, or search by, status, right? So oh, I can see how many things are in each of these things but, it takes multiple steps. Which is a real downside of traditional list-based software.
Brian: 27:45 I think that the biggest one’s the multiple steps, because it’s hard to get people to use software, as we discussed already, [inaudible 00:27:53] episodes, but it’s hard to get people to use software. And when you add more steps, it’s just you’re relying … it’s just more likely to fall through the cracks. So when you have a visual-type workflow again-
Brian: 28:00 … likely to fall through the cracks. When you have a visual-type workflow, again, it just relying on a single drag and drop potentially, which really, every movement in that workflow is the same. By moving it forward to the next step in the process, that’s the same. If I’m moving it backwards because it’s now iced and it’s going to be put back in the backlog for whatever reason, it’s the same movement, and we’re used to doing that over and over again. So, you’re not asking any more of the user to be like, “Oh, remember to change that status every time, and that’s going to take you three clicks, and then that starts to break down.”
Tom: 28:33 Yep.
Brian: 28:33 That’s, I think, the best part about the visual nature, and part of our mantra is can we keep the board to that simple movement of drag and drop and move it along the process? That’s where our automation platform comes in, too, where can we automate some of the underlying things that are supposed to be happening so we don’t have to rely on humans to take those steps every time, to change status of things, to add tags, to notify in Slack. These kind of things.
Tom: 28:57 Sure.
Brian: 28:58 It just makes this software easier to use for everybody. They don’t have to think about a lot of things every time they do something, and it’s more about focusing on the work and getting it from kind of step-to-step.
Tom: 29:08 Yeah, and then you have that instant gratification. Gamification is so important, but the basics of gamification are that the feeling that you get when you complete something. You get that naturally within this workflow-type approach, this kanban-type approach where you feel benefit of moving it to the next step. You just, frankly, don’t get that unless maybe you get that when you check something off, but I don’t know.
Brian: 29:44 Yeah. I think that’s the biggest thing. In a list, it sits there, and again, depending on how big the task is, but say that task takes you two days to do. It’s going to sit there from when you first get that task assigned to you, and it’s going to sit in that list in the same spot until you’re done, and then you’re going to market it as complete. Your interaction with that task is really minimal, where if you had a workflow you’re going to be touching that task potentially a couple times throughout that day, and moving it along, right?
Brian: 30:09 Then taking it from one step, to the other step, to the other step, and you get that gratification of like, “I am making progress on this task, and this task will be done soon.” Right? You get that motivation, too, to be like, “Okay. I’m making progress. I’m doing something.” As opposed to a task list where it just, it almost hangs over your head. It’s like, “Oh, I’ve got three more things still to check off.”
Tom: 30:30 Let’s move on to talk about the versatility of visualizing your work.
Brian: 30:36 Yeah. Visualizing uses visual signals that can be understood by anyone. I already touched on this a little bit, but it really gets into industry and title, being industry and title agnostic where you’re not using certain terminology or certain status symbols to communicate things. The visual signs and the visual signals in the workflow tell the story to anybody regardless of their background, or skillsets, and things like that. So, it could essentially be implemented by every team in your company from engineering, to marketing, to admin support, whatever it might be. It really becomes that universal and flexible workflow platform that you can leverage as opposed to being very technical or very specific to a certain industry.
Tom: 31:27 Yeah, and I think that by itself then lowers the learning, just in general. Less software to learn. You don’t have to learn multiple platforms for different departments at your organization. Therefor, it makes it easier to work across various projects at your company. If everyone’s using the same platform, and everyone’s basically running projects the same way, you can hop around without any learning curve.
Brian: 31:58 Yeah, and even if the workflow is completely different, right? The actual steps in the process are different than from one department to the other, the process and the flow is the same. For you to pick up on a completely different process for a different department, a different type of work, will be very easy compared to a totally different way of working or different method of work.
Tom: 32:22 Finally, you can actually combine lists with the workflow, and we do this all the time, actually. We do it both within a task itself, we can have a list, or we can actually basically connect different types of boards that like one board is a traditional workflow-type board, and stuff might fall off of that onto another board that is a traditional list because that’s how that data is best kept.
Brian: 32:57 Yep. Yeah. It’s really the best of both worlds the way I look at it because you can have basically steps in your process that aren’t steps. They’re really just containers, and then the first lists could be resources, for example, if that’s what you wanted. Then the next list beyond that could be a real workflow, like this is actually going to step through steps in a process. We use this on our feedback board. We have customer interviews in a list. They don’t move.
Brian: 33:25 They’re just there for reference because we wanted to keep all the feedback together, but then we have a bunch of customer feedback that we track, actually, through a little mini-workflow. So, it’s incoming from the customer feedback, and then if we move it into, hey, we’re going to roadmap this, it moves to another list and it goes to a workflow, but it enables us to keep all the information in one place and have some things in a list that doesn’t … The tasks really don’t leave that list or move through a workflow, and then we have on the same board things that move through from list to list. It’s pretty cool.
Brian: 33:56 Another benefit is that improvements to the process are actually a lot easier. Visualizing your work makes it easier to review processes, so you can actually see what’s happening and the steps that everybody’s taking, and you can see where there’s an issue. Instead of, again, a task sitting in a list that, really, the only status change that happens is it being marked complete, you’re not quite sure where the breakdown is happening if there is a breakdown.
Brian: 34:25 Where in a more visual workflow, you can start seeing like, “Hey. We’re actually getting a bottleneck of tasks in this one list. That’s interesting. Why? Is something not flowing correctly? Is somebody not communicating something correctly? Why aren’t these tasks moving to the next step?” That’s really easy to understand just by, again, 10 seconds by looking at the board you can see, hey, yep. This issue is happening. Let me get to the bottom of it. It just really gives a lot more insight into potential bottlenecks and issues in your process and an easy way to adjust it. So, if there is a new list that needs to be added or something like that to alleviate the pain or the workflow, then that’s super simple to iterate and add it.
Tom: 35:06 Sure. Yeah. You’re just building off of a bunch of Legos, if you will, right? Just small, small things that are combined to make something larger. Adding additional small things could alleviate some confusion, or make a step that is too complicated simpler, right?
Brian: 35:28 Yeah. Yeah. In that same light too, even in our recommended baseline workflow we have a list called Blocked. We use this all the time in our processes as well, but it also, just talking about visualizing issues or problems in your workflow, it’s also a tool that you can visualize issues by manually creating a list called Blocked, and that people can actually move tasks to that list and say, “Hey, everyone. This task is blocked and I want you all to know that.” You can do that simply by having a list in your workflow, not having a color code or something that gets buried way vertically down the page where somebody has to find it. It just, again, makes that issue-tracking and problem-solving a lot easier.
Tom: 36:13 All right. Tips for taking action, first and foremost I think if you haven’t actually tried any sort of visual approach, check out episode four. It gives you a good baseline workflow for any team, and it’s a great starting point.
Brian: 36:29 Yeah. Hopefully this episode has convinced you that the visual approach is the way to go, and episode four will help you actually get there. Another tip if your process is more complicated, you may want to take this to be a team exercise to decide what your visual workflow should be. So episode four, again, gives you the baseline that we recommend, but you certainly may know right off the bat that, hey, we actually have a pretty complicated workflow. I can’t even wrap my head around how this might map out into what you’re talking about here in this visual nature.
Brian: 37:03 We did a visual workflow webinar that I’ll link to in the show notes as well, but it goes through a process that you can take your team through that’s a serious of meetings and collaboration sessions that you can actually extract that process out of your team, and it will help make a lot more sense into how it could be instructed from what you’re doing today to something more visual.
Tom: 37:26 Finally, we say basically in every episode, test it out on a project and see how it goes. Who knows? It might be a game-changer.
Brian: 37:34 Yeah, and I always say to definitely test it out. Obviously we’ve been saying that, but see it through. I think it’s easy to say, “Yeah, let’s test it out.” Then the first couple days it’s different, and it’s hard, and you’re not used to it, and everybody’s complaining about it, but see it through because I think you need some time. It takes 21 days to form a habit, I think. You need to give it some time to actually see if it works for you or not, and it very well may not and that’s fine, but you have to give it a chance, and really force the issue sometimes, and get your team to buy into it, and actually give it a real shot.
Brian: 38:10 Going back to a kind of buy-in, which we touched on a lot too, but it may be worth getting your team onboard with this first to do the test project. Share all the benefits that we discussed today. Go over the baseline workflow if that’s your starting point, and get some buy-ins saying, “Hey. Yeah. We’re going to give this a shot on a project, and actually see it through, and give it a good test.”
Tom: 38:32 Well, I think that about wraps us up for the day. If you have a question for us, you can call into our voicemail number at 860-577-2293, or you can email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our theme music is an excerpt from Thunder Rock by Magic Studio used under creative commons. Subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for Workflow and visit rindle.com/workflow-podcast for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.