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Summary of Workflow Analysis Responses Steven Oberg 16 Dec 1993 17:25 UTC

In October I posted an enquiry to the LIBADMIN, AUTOCAT, and SERIALST listservs
 regarding workflow analysis in technical services at other libraries.  My
 posting asked for the following information:  1.) guiding principles or goals
 delineated in the analysis process; 2.) how the current workflow was analyzed;
 and 3.) difficulties encountered in the process.  There were 18 responses to
 the survey, with most respondents showing great interest in hearing about
 experiences of other institutions.  Thanks again to everyone who responded.
 Below is a summary of what the respondents had to say about experience with
 workflow analysis at their libraries.

1.)  Guiding principles or goals delineated in the analysis process:

--eliminate duplication of effort
--eliminate unnecessary processing steps based on historical situations which
 no longer exist, or are no longer necessary in the change from a paper to
 online environment
--move more processes to the front of the line (i.e. Acquisitions)
--faster turnaround time
--those who do the work (who 'own and operate' the process) are the people who
 are best suited to analyze it
--make workflow conform to needs of customers
--have 'hard data' on what is currently being done before trying to change it
--high productivity at least cost
--update procedures manual
--establish how long it takes to process an item and what it costs
--implement downsizing of technical services

2.)  How current workflow was analyzed:

Approaches varied greatly, from a one person, quick-overview-during-an-
 afternoon approach, to establishing a committee to look at the workflow over a
 period of several months.  Nine respondents were involved in a team approach,
 while five others indicated that the workflow analysis was done by a single
 person, supplemented by interviews with staff involved in the various
 processes.  One public library was able to get an outside consultant to do
 the analysis.  A common thread in all approaches was the need to adequately
 document (e.g., by means of flowcharts) current processes as a necessary
 first step to the analysis.

3.)  Difficulties encountered in the process:

--staff resistance for fear of pressures for greater productivity and
 effectiveness, or simply resistance to changing old procedures
--need for removing oneself from the analysis, from 'feelings of turf'
--lack of adequate understanding of library procedures on the part of person(s)
 charting the processes
--processes change over time, thus becoming a 'moving target'
--labor intensive statistics gathering

I thought others would also find the following quotes from respondents to be of

"What happens, I think, is that we get used to doing things and continue to do
 them even though they no longer make any sense...It really helps to have
 someone from outside come in and take a look at the workflow."

"...even though our Head was careful all along to say that this data was for
 informational purposes and wouldn't be used against us, we very
 defensive when the first stats started coming in...Now that we have gotten
 over the initial shock we need to look for ways that we can improve our
 workflow by changing our procedures."

"In the end the consultant had some suggestions but overall reinforced our
 current workflow.  One of the suggestions was for a new staff person, which we
 recently got."

"I tread on eggshells which are quite frequently not strong enough to support
 me, but I do feel that headway is being made."

Finally, a brief statement of what we are doing with workflow analysis at the
 University of Chicago Library.  We are looking into four main workflows in
 central technical services:  Acquisitions to Cataloging workflow; arrearages
 to processing workflow; binding; processing/cataloging priorities; and
 production standards and turnaround time.  A work group to examine
 Acquisitions to Cataloging workflow has already been appointed and has begun
 its work.  Other work groups to address the remaining workflows will be
 appointed shortly.  I would be happy to share any conclusions which we may
 arrive at by the end of this process with anyone who is interested.

Steven J. Oberg                               e-mail:
Serials Cataloger                                    Tel. no. : (312) 702-8769
The University of Chicago Library                         FAX : (312) 702-0853
1100 East 57th St., Rm. 220
Chicago, IL   60637