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Designing a Workflow System

Designing a Workflow System


A Deep-Fried Workflow Model

One of my summertime favorites is an annual trip to the fair. Although the summer fairs generally feature the same attractions and exhibits year after year, the board of directors find new and innovative ways to market a unique experience each July. The introduction of unique, one-of-a-kind new taste sensations such as deep fried girl scout cookies, Baby Ruth filled jalapenos, deep fried jerky, and even deep fried kool-aid satisfy the curiosity of over 1.4 million visitors annually.

To manage the demand of the masses, the traveling carni’s rely on the assistance of over 5,000 seasonal workers. With seeming ease, the operations run smoothly despite the fact that most of the workers don’t know each other, aren’t familiar with the city, and are typically inexperienced as they shift job assignments as needed. Why does it work so well? Two words: effective workflow systems.

Now before you object to this philosophy of workflow systems dear readers, and say to yourself that “workflow systems are fine for carnivals, but won’t work for a tax business,” hear me out. First, look at why systems work well in other environments. Whether the county fair, or auto factory, any business featuring repetitive tasks work well with systems. Can you think of a business more repetitive than taxes? Same deadlines, same process, year after year. The biggest challenge in a tax business? Variables. Variables can kill any carefully crafted system or procedure without contingency plans. The good thing about a tax business, although chalk full of variables, we know, for the most part, what the variables are. One of the secrets of designing effective workflow systems are controlling the variables.

Give it a try, and start with something simple – something fair-ish like food. How about making coffee in the office? For fun, enlist the aid of your staff and lay out a workflow system for making the coffee. Think of all the steps to make a good cup of coffee every time, and write them down! And don’t forget about controlling the variables! You’ll see once you get started, your very own deep fried 1040’s will be finished on auto pilot!

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