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Few exceptional things are done alone, meaning if you are doing great work, you are probably doing it with a team!

While working with a team might sound simple at first, getting everyone up to speed and pivoting on a dime is not as simple as it sounds. The team workflows you put in place to help manage team interactions can make or break the success of your initiative.

You’ll typically manage your team workflow using workflow management software or workflow automation software.

What Is A Team Workflow?

A team workflow is the (hopefully repeatable) process your team goes through to collaborate and complete tasks in pursuit of a collective goal. The team workflow covers how tasks are defined, executed, managed and ultimately, completed. 

Team Workflow Example

Here’s an example from a marketing team I worked with previously. Our team was made up of a digital project manager (me), marketing strategists, content creators, graphic designers, developers, and an online community manager.

The group worked well together thanks to clarity in their team workflow, roles, and areas of expertise.

Here’s what our team workflow looked like for getting a new marketing campaign from concept to operational release. 

  1. Campaign planning and strategy: The marketing strategists and content team defined campaign goals (e.g. increased website traffic, more product sales), identified the target audience, and decided on which digital channels would be used. They developed a campaign strategy that outlined key messages, resource allocation, budget, strategic objectives, and timelines. 
  2. Content creation and design: The content and design team produced creative assets such as articles, blog posts, videos, social media posts, and infographics based on the goals of the campaign. Ensure all content is ready-to-publish, correctly branded, and formatted for the chosen digital channels. 
  3. Technical implementation: The technical members of the team setup all landing pages and controllable web assets, ensured analytics and measurement tools were in place, integrated with the company’s CRM systems wherever possible, and prepared all workflow automation sequences.
  4. Campaign execution: The team launched the campaign across all digital platforms and monitored the rollout closely, adjusting as necessary based on real-time data and results.
  5. Monitoring and analysis: The data analysts and ad specialists tracked the performance of the campaign using predefined metrics. We gathered and analyzed data from various channels, created reports to evaluate and communicate the effectiveness of the campaign, and gathered insights as to what to do differently next time. 
  6. Review and Iteration: We reviewed the results of the campaign with stakeholders, and identified what went well and what could be improved for next time. We also planned adjustments for future campaigns based on learnings. 

This workflow might look similar to a high-level project plan, but the difference is that a team workflow is intended to be used repeatedly. When the team needs to launch a new digital campaign, they can use the relevant team workflow to keep everyone on track. 

Find more examples of workflows here.

Why It’s Important To Manage The Team’s Workflow

Here are a couple of quick reasons you should consider managing your team’s workflow: 

  • Get everyone on the same page: Managing your team’s workflow helps all members to gain a clear understanding of the project goals, deadlines, and processes. When everyone is on the same page and understands what is going on, confusion is mitigated and efforts should be much more aligned. 
  • Enhance accountability: When you clearly define roles and the process for your team to operate within, everyone knows what is expected of them and performance against expectations can be tracked clearly. This level of clarity helps create a sense of responsibility and encourages people to take ownership of their tasks. 
  • Boost efficiency, reducing wasted work: Effective workflow management streamlines processes, eliminates redundant or duplicative tasks, and helps ensure that resources are allocated efficiently. This is helpful in that it can speed up project execution and reduce the likelihood of wasted effort and sunk costs. 
  • Built-in adaptability: When a workflow is well-defined and managed, it includes guidance on keeping the team flexible and agile, allowing teams to respond to changes along the way. Changes in project scope (and scope creep), resource shifts, or external factors that previously would have thrown everyone off can be managed more effectively when the process and the “what happens now?!” is already known. 
  • Encourage continuous improvement and consistent success: Your team’s workflow should be updated to match the needs of the team and the project at the given time. Regularly reviewing and managing the workflow helps to address bottlenecks or inefficiencies and provides opportunities for continual process optimization, leading to sustained positive performance over time. 

How To Create A Team Workflow

6 steps to create a team workflow
Follow these six steps as you're creating your team workflows.

Creating a workflow is a repeatable process that starts by identifying what needs to be done, who needs to be involved, and what exactly needs to be done, and then testing, refining and implementing the workflow.

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1. Determine the Goal of the Workflow

Start by defining the specific objectives that you aim to achieve with the workflow. This could be creating a repetitive process to launching campaigns (like in the above example), developing software or creating new products. 

Clear goals will help tailor the workflow to your team’s needs and help avoid the urge to “boil the ocean.” Aim to create workflow goals that are clear and measurable so you can determine if your workflow is achieving its desired results or if it needs to be changed later on. 

2. Identify Which Team Members Need To Be Involved

Consider who you already know will be involved in achieving the workflow's goals. Identify the roles and responsibilities for each part of the workflow to ensure clarity on who is responsible for each portion—remember, allocating marketing resources correctly is key!

When you identify the team members that need to be involved, make it real by creating some documentation showing everyone’s name, role, and photo if you can!

People often love to see themselves included in “the team” and a visual representation of the team can help bring people together and create a sense of collective ownership, especially when working remotely

3. List Tasks and Steps in the Process

Gather the people that will be involved and start planning out how you will achieve the goal. Break down the workflow into detailed tasks and steps. Each should be actionable and necessary to reach the workflow’s goals. This will feel like high-level project or operations planning. 

Use verbs to characterize tasks such as “Draft,” “Review,” “Edit,” “Develop,” “Approve,” “Test,” or “Publish/Deploy,” to clarify exactly what needs to be done. Add details about who will execute each task or step in the process and document the responsibilities. I love to use a RACI chart for this part of planning and workflow creation. 

4. Create a Diagram of the Workflow

Map out the workflow visually using diagrams and flowcharts. I always like to do workflow mapping on paper first to ensure I understand what is going on and can present it in the best way possible (the clearest way possible). 

An example I like to use here comes from my operations leadership experience where I developed customer support processes for a large software company.

When we developed team workflows, we always created flowcharts for each customer service process. We would use verbs and action-oriented workflow step titles with decision points, desired outcomes and responsible parties for each as identified in the RACI chart.

5. Test & Adjust The Workflow

Before full implementation, test the workflow on a small scale to identify any issues or bottlenecks. Be ready to make adjustments based on feedback from any and all participants—that’s the whole point of the test! 

This helps to de-risk the process and ensure that any snags you encounter in the early days of running the process can be identified and resolved before things get too complicated or the volume makes things unwieldy. 

Whenever I run a pilot, I have once-per-week check-ins with the core team to understand how things are going and make changes on the fly.

Once you make any needed changes to the team workflow, be sure to update all artifacts and inform the team. If you make big changes, you might want to run a secondary pilot or test of the team workflow.

6. Implement The Workflow & Keep Iterating As Needed

Continuous monitoring and iteration help to ensure the workflow remains relevant and efficient as conditions change, fostering ongoing improvement. Also, remember to document any changes you make, and consider whether you can use this workflow as a template for the next time you need to build a similar one.

Tips For Improving Your Workflows

I’m going to help you avoid some of the pitfalls I have experienced in my career by providing five expert tips for developing, maintaining and iterating team workflows for effectiveness. Learn more about workflow optimization here.

1. Carefully Consider Technology 

I generally advise avoiding planning in tooling from the start because it is easy to get overwhelmed trying to make everything perfect in a tool such that you may lose sight of the truly important elements of planning…the same goes for team workflow design.

Once you understand your workflow well enough to start using tools, be selective. Choose technology tools that not only fit the immediate needs of the team but also integrate seamlessly with other systems in use. Evaluate each tool's features against your workflow requirements and consider user-friendliness.

Teams often have a mix of project management tools, workflow mapping tools, and collaboration systems to help them manage workflows and business processes. I have used apps including Smartsheet, Jira, Confluence, Trello, Microsoft Teams, Planner, Notion, Slack, Miro, Mural, Asana, ClickUp and, just to name a few. Also, when in doubt, sticky notes can make a great Kanban board

2. Document Everything

If you want people to know what is going on now and into the future, you must document what is supposed to happen, why it is supposed to happen, and who is supposed to do it. Thorough workflow documentation aids in transparency, accountability, and can be invaluable for onboarding new team members or reviewing project history. 

Expert Tip

Expert Tip

Checklists might sound basic, but they can be your best friend when creating and managing workflows. Checklists help everyone understand exactly what was or was not done with a quick yes/no indicator.

If you don’t like documentation or don’t feel comfortable developing it, I highly recommend writing tools like Grammarly or ChatGPT. Another clever way to use ChatGPT for documentation is to create or use a specifically trained GPT that understands what you are trying to accomplish and in what format.

3. Integrate Customer Feedback

Feedback from customers won’t typically be as direct or actionable as might be expected, but complaints about throughput, service, or other elements of support may be an indicator of an issue within your team workflow. 

Develop opportunities for customers to provide feedback and implement a process to analyze and respond to customer feedback as an input to the iteration of workflows. You will need to solicit customer feedback to get a mix of positive and negative feedback. I typically use surveys and focus groups to get specific feedback. 

4. Prioritize Flexibility and Adaptability

In order to stay competitive and ahead of the curve, design workflows that are inherently flexible and which allow for adjustments as workflow needs, team dynamics, or external environments change. 

Plan to change by incorporating regular checkpoints to assess workflow adaptability and make adjustments as needed.

I tend to make many changes in the early stages of the workflow’s implementation, and then once it is stable, I keep an eye on it longer-term through quarterly or semi-annual reviews. I also promptly review any specific customer, stakeholder, or team member feedback. 

5. Focus on Roles, Not Just People

In 2023, Gallup reported 21% of millennials surveyed changed jobs within the past year. This turnover affects the remaining team and your workflows.

When designing a team workflow, focus on the role each person serves within the organization so that if the person leaves, you still have an understanding of the responsibilities of the role. This will also make it easier to get a new team member up-to-speed quickly. 

Expert Tip

Expert Tip

Layoffs often strike team workflows and projects in unexpected ways. When people are removed from an organization and not replaced, those who remain on cross-functional teams and in team workflows spanning multiple departments are left without the knowledge, skills, experience, and capacity of those that were once part of the team.

Here are some tips for how to re-group and re-start a team workflow after an unexpected change such as a layoff: 

  1. Quickly reassess the remaining people and roles and identify the gaps. Work with managers and leadership to spread work among existing team members. 
  2. Increase the frequency and clarity of communication within the team and across departments. 
  3. Offer additional training and support to remaining team members and members of the team that are taking on new roles or responsibilities. This can ease the transition and mitigate significant drops in morale. 
  4. Continue to review the effectiveness of your process and interventions to keep things moving forward. Be open to feedback and be prepared to change your team workflow to match the adjusted capability of your team. 

Team Workflows Make The Work Go! 

What are you waiting for? If you have a repeatable process that requires a team to execute, it’s time to build a team workflow to serve your unique work environment, use case, and team. Each workflow is likely to be a custom workflow, so get ready to create and determine how workflows can support team productivity. 

Also, if you have team workflows that you love or think work really well, I want to hear about them! Join me in the DPM Community to share stories of success and failure as we learn together. 

Dr. Liz Lockhart Lance
By Dr. Liz Lockhart Lance

Liz is an agilist and digital project manager with a passion for people, process, and technology and more than 15 years of experience leading people and teams across education, consulting, and technology firms. In her day-to-day, Liz works as the Chief of Staff at Performica, an HR software company revolutionizing how people give and receive feedback at work. Liz holds a Doctorate in Organizational Change and Leadership from The University of Southern California and teaches Leadership and Operations courses in the MBA program at the University of Portland. Liz holds numerous project management-related certifications including: PMP, PMI-ACP, CSP-SM, and a SPHR from HRCI to round out the people-focused side of her work.