One of the first things I like to do when beginning the evaluation process of team’s workflow, is to break down the types of activities the team is working on.
Naturally we all have more work on our to-do list than what we believe is humanly possible, and if all things are equal its often a true statement. The good news is, all things are not equal if you are able to understand the types of work activities you do have in front of you. With that type of information a new world of possibilities can open up towards a more efficient and productive set of outcomes.
There are countless methods and frameworks that have been introduced and popularized over the years. Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, David Allen’s Getting Things Done, Workflow Modeling, Time-Motion Studies, etc. All very effective systems to help you conceptualize and execute your to-do list.
Let’s keep things simple and effective, shall we?
One model I like to use is the Administrative-Production-Project model (or APP, if you prefer). I came across the original concept while studying The Process Focused Organization by Robert A Gardner. My original testing grounds were during a series of projects we were executing to improve workflows in testing and manufacturing laboratories. I have had the best success with this model in situations where the team has a mix of regularly scheduled repeating outputs, coupled with longer lead time project based activities.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about the general steps:
- Define and determine your core repeatable output(s)
- Define your production cycle
- Qualify time spent in meetings and general communication mediums (Administrative Time)
- Qualify effort and activities that are related to producing your core repeatable output (Production Time)
- Determine the balance of remaining time within your standard work schedule (Project Time)
- Summarize, realize, and socialize
What a typical summary output looks like:
Once the data collection has been completed, I typically like to visualize the output in this fashion. It helps me quickly understand certain aspects of the activity flow: including but not limited to: peaks and valleys of the production cycle, projected capacity for executing improvement projects, or potential constraints for upcoming projects or production orders. I have also found it to be extremely useful for explaining the workflow patterns of groups that support highly complex processes to individuals that might be outside of the core team.
What are a few potential outcomes and next steps from executing the APP model?
- Pinpoint conditions that might be driving slow process response, sporadic or declining quality degradation of core outputs, or inability to re-invest in improving the overall condition of your team.
- Make better choices as a leader with respect to your expectations concerning outputs and improvement project capacity.
- Make more informed decisions regarding priorities and trade-offs between production
- Measure impacts of improvement investments on your core production processes
- Probably most importantly, enable your team to make more informed and self-directed decisions on their own priorities and efforts