5 Ways to Improve Workflow

Improving your company’s workflow is important. Most journals and companies know that this is important, but sometimes we’re not sure where to start. In this article, we’ll go over 5 different things that you can do in order to improve the workflow of your journal and save money in the process.

Remember, time is money, so the more time you save the more resources you will avoid wasting.

Why does improving workflow matter?

Workflows matter to your company because they allow consistent repeatability. For your journal, this might mean that you have a consistent and easy-to-follow peer review process. We have talked about different things that can improve workflows in the past. It might also mean that the English editing process is the same (and that the way that work is assigned to editors is always the same). Whatever the project, a workflow can help to ensure that the work that you do is consistent. Consistent work is reliable, and when authors are trying to get their manuscripts published, they don’t want a chaotic and confusing experience.

Consistency matters.

Visually, a workflow is quite simple. Here’s an example:

A —> B —> C

That’s it. Process A leads to Process B, which leads to Process C. In journal publishing, this might be something like “Peer Review” leads to “Acceptance” and then to “Publication”. This example is very simplistic, but there are ways in which we can simplify these individual components’ workflows.

How to improve workflow

By carefully applying rules and guidelines, your journal can improve its workflow processes. Here are 5 different tips to improve your workflow:

  1. Eliminate redundancy
  2. Stop micromanaging
  3. Empower your team
  4. Establish responsibility and accountability
  5. Use systems to support your workflow

Implementing one or several of these can have major impacts.

1. Eliminate redundancy

Redundancy can be a massive waste of resources. When multiple people or departments are performing the same task (or tasks), this causes redundancy. There is a fine line between double-checking something and redundancy. If your workflow includes cases where tasks need to be checked more than once, it should be built into the workflow. For example, many journals have a minimum number of positive peer review reports that need to be submitted before a manuscript is accepted for publication. But you wouldn’t send out a manuscript for peer review once you’ve already received enough reports to make a decision. This would be redundant.

Finding places where redundancy occurs is often a case of reviewing the entire publishing process holistically and engaging with stakeholders. Because workflow exists at multiple levels, there can often be places to save on time and resources at multiple levels.

Because management often operates at a scale that doesn’t allow it to see all the minor facets of different tasks, it is critical to engage with teams and individuals to gain insight into different processes. By doing this, you can find places where redundancies exist and workflows can be improved.

2. Stop micromanaging

There is a reason why micromanagement has such a negative reputation. Very little good comes from this kind of management system. It creates the impression that management does not trust team members to work effectively. In addition, it slows down the workflow by introducing unnecessary delays. These can range from needing to perform tasks slowly so that they can be observed carefully to needing to stop to constantly address questions. In addition, it lowers job satisfaction and can create anxiety in employees.

Overall, micromanagement of workflows can be one of the most significant drivers of costs and delays in the publication process. Worst of all, because it creates an atmosphere of distrust in employees, it can create a high worker turnover, which negatively impacts resources in different parts of the company. Needing to train several employees for the same job just costs more money.

3. Empower your team

One of the best ways to avoid some of the issues above is to empower your team to make decisions and to provide feedback to management about the workflow processes that they deal with. Giving your team autonomy to navigate smaller issues, while also making sure that they adhere to important guidelines. If you empower your team to handle elements of the workflow on their own, they are able to exercise creativity and might actually wind up coming up with valuable ideas that save the company time and money.

Employees who have both autonomy and authority in their jobs tend to have higher levels of job satisfaction and are less likely to feel like they are underappreciated at their jobs. Remember, every employee that leaves the company and needs to be replaced will wind up costing your company money and resources. It’s much easier (and cheaper) to ensure that employees are happy and satisfied with their jobs.

4. Establish responsibility and accountability

Establishing accountability in a workflow is a good way to make sure that all relevant actors are doing their part. Importantly though, it also ensures that tasks are not doubling up. If it is a manager’s job to do a specific task, other parties should not be doing that task (and should be informed of this). Making sure that all the different parties in a department are aware of their jobs (and of the jobs of other parties) it is easy to see when there are problems in the workflow.

Accountability in a department can help to ensure that everyone is doing the parts of their jobs that they need to. If someone starts performing another person’s job, this can cause redundancy and lead to losses in terms of money and time. Making sure that everyone has clear expectations and knows what they should be doing is a good way to ensure that the workflow doesn’t get out of control for no reason.

5. Use systems to support your workflow

One of the most effective ways to ensure that you have an efficient workflow is to automate it. While there will always be parts of a process that need human intervention, there are also many ways in which mundane activities can be radically improved by automation. Consider, for example, your email address lists. You only need to write a person’s name (and you rarely ever need to write it in full—many times a couple of letters will do), The need to remember full email addresses, whether something is “.com” or “.org”, or even spelling is not longer necessary when it comes to this very common activity. Imagine how many more minutes of a day would be taken up if you have to write out every single email address you used in full.

Using systems like a journal management system to support your journal is a great way to ensure that many important tasks can be automated, freeing up your team to work on tasks that require a human touch.

For example, a journal management system is able to automate many different things. From invoicing to sending peer review invitations (and reminding reviewers to submit them after) they can help. You can make your life easier by making sure that you use the right tools for the job.

At the end of the day, use the tools you have. Journal management systems, calendars, or human resource software all accomplish the same aims—saving time and money.

D.J. McPhee
8 May 2024Posted inOperational Tasks
Post authorD.J. McPhee