Flowchart

What is a flowchart?

A flowchart is a graphical representation of a process or workflow. It uses various symbols and arrows to show the sequence of steps and decisions involved. As a visual tool, you can use them to understand, document, and communicate processes in a clear and structured manner. Most commonly, people use flowcharts in various business, engineering, software development, project management, and more.

Example of a order placement flow map

flowchart

The main components of a flowchart:

1. Process Steps (Activities): In flow charts, rectangular boxes depict process steps. Further, each box contains a brief description of the activity or task.

2. Arrows (Flow Lines): Arrows connect the process steps and indicate the order of execution. The arrows show the flow of the process and guide the reader from one step to the next.

3. Decision Points: Decision points illustrate choices or conditions within the process. Diamond-shaped symbols represent them. Depending on the decision outcome, the flow will follow different paths.

4. Start and End Points: These symbols mark the beginning and end of the process. Ovals or rounded rectangles represent these.

In essence, the flowcharts can vary in complexity, depending on the level of detail required. While simple flowcharts provide a high-level overview of a process, a more detailed flowchart may break down each step into sub-processes, decision branches, and conditional paths.

How to draw a flowchart?

Step 1: Understand the Basics of Flowchart

The first thing to understand about a flowchart is that it is a visual representation of a process or workflow. Next, it uses symbols, shapes, and arrows to illustrate the sequence of steps and decision points involved in the process. Therefore, the primary goal of a flowchart is to provide a clear and easy-to-understand view of the process. Basically, the flowchart should make it easier to identify inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and areas for improvement.

Step 2: Identify the Process

Next, clearly define the specific process that you intend to map. This process can be any aspect of the business, like order fulfillment, customer service, or manufacturing. But, before proceeding to create a flowchart to visually represent the process, it is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of the process itself. Therefore, understanding the process in detail is crucial as it provides the necessary foundation for accurate and effective documentation in the flowchart.

Step 3: Determine the Flowchart Symbols

Flowcharts use various symbols to represent different elements of the process. Here are some commonly used symbols:

  • Start/End: Represents the beginning or end of a process. Typically shown as an oval shape.
  • Process Step: Represents a specific action or task in the process. Displayed as a rectangle.
  • Decision Point: Indicates a point where the processor makes a decision. Usually displayed as a diamond shape.
  • Connector: This shows the continuation of a flowchart on another page. Displayed as a small circle.
  • Arrow: Arrows connect the symbols and indicate the flow of the process from one step to another.

Step 4: Map the Process Steps

Once you have identified the process, follow these steps to map it:

1. List the Steps: Begin by listing all the individual steps and activities that are part of the process. Start from the beginning and work your way through to the end of the process.

2. Sequence the Steps: Arrange the steps in the order they occur chronologically. This helps create a clear flow from one activity to the next.

3. Use Symbols and Shapes: Choose a standard set of symbols or shapes to represent different elements in the process. For example, use rectangles for tasks, diamonds for decision points, and arrows to show the flow between steps.

4. Document Inputs and Outputs: For each step, identify the inputs required to initiate the activity and the outputs generated. This information provides a comprehensive understanding of how the process progresses.

5. Define Decision Points: Identify decision points within the process where specific choices or conditions influence the flow. Use diamonds or decision symbols to represent these points.

Step 5: Add Details and Information

To make your flowchart more informative, you can include additional details such as input/output information, time durations, responsible roles, or any other relevant data. This will provide a clearer understanding of the process and help identify areas for improvement. If certain steps involve waiting times or delays, make sure to incorporate them into the process map. This will give a realistic representation of the process timeline.

Step 6: Review and Validate the Flowchart

Once you have mapped out the process, review it for accuracy and completeness. Validate the map with relevant stakeholders to ensure that it aligns with their understanding of the process.

Step 7: Update and Refine the flowchart

As you gather feedback and insights, make any necessary updates or refinements to the flowchart. Keep in mind that it is a dynamic tool that should accurately represent the present condition of the procedure. Continuously update and refine it.

The advantages of using a flowchart:

  • Clarity and Simplicity: Flowcharts offer a clear and easy-to-understand visualization of a process, making it accessible to a wide range of audiences.

  • Process Understanding: Flowcharts help stakeholders gain a shared understanding of how a process works and its various components.

  • Process Improvement: Analyzing flowcharts can reveal bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and areas for improvement in a process.

  • Communication: Flowcharts provide an effective way to communicate complex processes or workflows to team members, clients, or other stakeholders.

  • Standardization: Flowcharts can aid in standardizing processes, ensuring consistent execution across the organization.

Conclusion

Flowcharts are invaluable tools for process mapping in Six Sigma. They help us understand the flow of a process, identify bottlenecks, and locate areas for improvement. By following the steps outlined in this tutorial, you can create your own flowcharts to visually represent and analyze any process within your organization. 

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