Conducting Workflow Analysis



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I attended a webinar in November hosted by ANIA-CARING.  The speaker was Cheryl Parker and the webinar was titled, ” Conducting Workflow Analysis – Don’t Get Trapped by How.”

Part of the job of a systems analyst are conducting current state workflows and helping departments to adopt the future state workflows that the electronic medical record will bring to their department.

The topic of workflows are of a particular interest to me since I have participated in many workflow analyses in my career.  The last workflow analysis I participated in was this past summer.  In each organization I have worked at the workflow process is similar with some minor details.

Dr. Cheryl Parker is the Chief Nursing Officer  for Rubbermaid Medical Solutions.  Dr. Parker also teaches nursing informatics in Walden University.  My overall key takeaway from this webinar is to not think about the “how” of a worflow analysis but the  “what” of a  workflow analysis.  In this webinar, Dr. Parker suggests to follow this particular workflow process: 

1.)  Find the what first

2.)  Define the how

3.)  Focus on value

4.)  RAEW Analysis

5.)  Goldilocks Prinicple:  Not too much and not too little – Don’t get bogged down with too many details

Find The What

Here are the “what’s” of a workflow analysis:

  • Process exists to achieve a desired outcome
  • A person’s job is to achieve the desired outcome not just complete steps in a workflow
  • The “what’s” are the desired outcome
  • Outcome verbs:  acquire, deliver, create, generate

I learned in school about the traditional workflow analysis:  How to Conduct a Workflow Analysis.  This is what I learned:

  • Interview the people who do the job
  • Document what these people tell us they do
  • Don’t make assumptions or ask questions
  • After meeting, figure out a better way to do their job
  • Implement changes
  • Reassess

Define the How

The problem with conducting the “how” of a workflow analysis are the:

  • people you are interviewing, their answers are subjective and unreliable; for example, interview three people in the same department and you get three answers
  • people you interview will always say “this is how we have always done it”
  • or they will answer, “I was taught this way”
  • people you interview may be blind to the big picture and you will not get desired outcomes
  • people in the department that you interview may be stuck in a workflow and may become argumentative.  Do we do A or B and who does it?

Focus on Value

The questions you may ask yourself about values are:

1.)  Are the people you chose to interview a high value for the organization?  The definition of high value are:

  • concerned with safety
  • contributes to bottom line
  • competitive differentation
  • customer satisfaction

RAEW Analysis

RAEW analysis forms the human/managerial components of the workflow process

R = Responsibility – does the person have responsibility for the actions/decisions

A = Authority – controls/prohibits the actions of others

E = Expertise – special skill, knowledge, judgement

W = Work – physical or mental effort directed at doing something

Beware of these red flags:

  • authority with no responsibility
  • responsibility with no authority
  • other roles with no expertise

 Apply the Goldilocks Principle

The Goldilocks principle is having just the right amount information in your workflow analysis.  Having too much information will bog you down and you may never finish.  In addition, data collection will be burdensome.

This webinar had some key learnings for me. I have always accomplished my workflow process with the how’s first and the what’s second.  In addition, I always felt like I needed to capture every single workflow a department does and often got overwhelmed with the information I collected.  This webinar proved helpful for me and the next time I do a workflow analysis, I will certainly follow Dr. Parker’s process.

 {image:  found via Flickr by alyceobvious’}



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