One Flowchart can replace a thousand words
A Flowchart is a diagram that uses graphic symbols to depict the nature and flow of the steps in a process.
At the beginning of your process improvement efforts, Flowchart helps you to understand how it currently works. You may compare this with the way the process is supposed to work, and also can develop a Flowchart of the modified process, to record how it actually functions.
When to use?
You can use the flowchart to:
- Promote understanding of a process by explaining the steps pictorially. People may have differing ideas about how a process works. A Flowchart can help you gain agreement about the sequence of steps. Flowcharts promote understanding in a way that written procedures cannot do.
- Provide a tool for training employees to visually lay out the sequence of process steps, Flowcharts can be very helpful in training employees to perform the process according to standardized procedures.
- Identify problem areas and opportunities for process improvement. Once you break down the process steps and diagram them, problem areas become more visible. It is easy to spot opportunities for simplifying and refining your process by analyzing decision points, redundant steps, and rework loops.
- Depict customer-supplier relationships, helping the process workers to understand who their customers are, and how they may sometimes act as suppliers and sometimes as customers in relation to other people.
Symbols used in the Flowchart:
How to use it?
- Identify the right people to develop the chart, those who know the process.
- Determine what you expect to get from the Flowchart.
- Define the level of detail you need.
- Define the first and the last step in the process — so that everyone has a shared understanding of where the process you’re working on begins and ends.
- Using the shapes above, fill in all the steps in the process from first to last.
- Review the flowchart to check for accuracy and completeness.
- Assign action items to team members to fill in unfamiliar steps and verify accuracy.
- When the flowchart is complete and accurate, analyze it, use it, and keep it up to date.