5 Ways Individual and Organizational Workflows Come Together

I am struck by the absence of workflow-related discussions in job advertisements and during interviews. This might be due to my near-obsession with workflows**, but how a new employee's workflow will mesh with a new employer's workflow is critically important.

This observation led me to another observation regarding the productivity literature: it too neglects how individual and organizational workflows come together. There is plenty of discussion of individual workflows (e.g., Getting Things Done) and organizational workflows (e.g., Agile, scrum, etc.), but few if any speak to how they come (or don’t come) together.

So I will mind this gap.

As I see it, there are at least five ways individual and organizational workflows can come together. Today, I’ll explain them. Next time, I’ll discuss situations where I’ve encountered them, and what I learned.

Workflow Emulation

In this case, one adopts the workflow of the other. This might be because someone does not yet have a well-defined productivity workflow, or it might be a demand of the job. This is critical to some organizations, like the military.

Workflow Synthesis

The workflows harmonize together. Maybe each came to the table with similar workflows, or maybe it was easy enough for folks to slightly alter how they get things done to accommodate the preferences of others.

Workflow Hybrid

The workflows do not conjoin, but instead operate independently. Consider the boss who says: “I don’t care how you do it, just get it done!”

Workflow Adaptation

In this scenario, the workflows each change in relation to the other. Marriage is a good example. Spouses have to fundamentally change how they do things in order to successfully co-exist.

Workflow Assimilation

In this scenario, one workflow surrenders to another. An example might be a marriage where one spouse domineers the other, or when a company acquires and re-structures another company.

Check back later to see these scenarios in action, and what I learned about each of them.

**What do I mean by workflow? I simply mean the steps a person or organization takes to do something. A writing workflow might be: brainstorm, outline, write, revise, polish. A lawyer’s workflow might be: talk to client, research the facts, research the law, perform legal analysis, write legal brief. You get the idea.


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