Using Flow Charts to communicate Processes

Flow charts are a useful tool in project management as they make processes easy to understand at a glance. Flow charts can quickly express what you are trying to say using just a few words and some simple symbols.

What Is a Flow Chart?

Flow charts are easy-to-understand, simple diagrams that maps out a procee to show how the steps of a process fit together.  It is used to define and analize a process that clearly shows a step by step visual. Flow charts tend to consist of four main symbols, linked with arrows that show the direction of flow:

  1. Elongated circles, which signify the start or end of a process.

 

  1. Rectangles, which show instructions or actions.

 

  1. Diamonds, which highlight where you must make a decision.

 

  1. Parallelograms, which show input and output. This can include materials, services or people.

 

When to Use a Flow Chart

All manner of organizations use flow charts to:

  • Define a process
  • Standardize process.
  • Communicate a process.
  • Improve a process.

How to Create a Flow Chart

Follow these four steps:

Step 1: Identify Tasks

The most effective way to use a flow chart is to begin by listing all of the tasks in a process in chronological order. Ask questions such as, “What happens next in the process?” or, “Do you need to make a decision before the next step?” or, “What kind of approvals are required before you move on to the next task?”

Talk to team members who work with the process directly, and understand their work flow. get their opinions on where improvements could be made. Visualize the procedure and think about the practicalities of each stage.

Step 2: Organize and Document Tasks

Usually, the elongated circle shape represents “Start.”

Then, work  your processes, and show the actions and decisions in the order that they happen. Link them with arrows to illustrate the flow of the process.

Where you need to make a decision, draw arrows from the decision diamond to each possible solution, and then label each arrow with the decision made. Remember to show the end of the process by using an elongated circle labeled “Finish.”

Step 3: Double-Check the Process

After you complete your flow chart, go back to the start and try it out to ascertain that the steps and processes are in the right sequence. Ausit the effectiveness of your flowchart by getting other people to test that it works and to tell you if there are any problems or omissions.

Step 4: Challenge the Flow Chart

Finally, you see if you can improve the process. Are there any of the steps that  described unnecessary or overly complicated?

Are the steps complete? After checking with the people involved in the process, make any changes and then challenge the chart again.

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