At a glance, flow-charts may look like a child’s game. Words are embedded into these fun-looking shapes and they are all connected with lines and arrows that go in different directions. However, amid this seemingly playful presentation, flowcharts actually portray a serious role in the corporate industry, where they are regarded as professional business tools.
Elements of a Good Flow Chart
Flow charts are visual representations that sequence the series of steps and decisions involved in a business model. Processes are embedded into shapes and they are linked with lines to denote relationships. The following are the elements that you should keep in mind when constructing a flowchart:
- Participants: These are the people involved in your business process. It can be the manager, the customer service representative, or anyone that plays an action.
- Activities: The activities in your flowchart are the actions taken in your business model. It pertains to every step in your workflow.
- Order: The most important part of your flowchart, an order is the arrangement of the actions and participants based on how they interact and affect each other. It portrays the before and the after of an activity, the task prerequisites, and possible outcomes of actions.
- Input: It is the beginning of each activity that indicates what actions, materials, or data is needed to produce results.
- Output: This pertains to the actions, materials, or data that gets passed on to the next process.
- Standardization: It is the consistency of your flow chart symbols when it comes to indicating a certain element. For example, oval indicates the start of the flow chart, rectangle means process, and diamond signifies decision-making points. There are a number of symbol sets used in various flow charts, but a standardized flow chart will only contain one set so the reader can easily decipher it.
10+ Flow Chart Templates
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Steps to Make a Great Flow Chart
1. List down all processes involved: It can be confusing to know how each of the processes correlates, but you must start at least from somewhere. List down all of the processes involved regardless of their order or correlation. Include the littlest activity you can think of, it will prove useful in bridging processes later on and will make your flowchart more detailed.
2. Identify the processes listed: Group the processes into three categories: reactive, strategic, and customer-focused.
- Reactive processes are failed or under-performing activities that help identify bottleneck issues in your business. Even if it’s a deterrent element, continue mapping this process to determine the problems present in your business flow.
- Strategic processes are the integral actions that are indispensable in a business process because of its strategic value. They are highly-valued processes that hugely affect the mapping of your entire flow chart.
- Customer–focused processes are steps that are taken to ensure positive customer feedback. They are key processes that ensure profit based on customer satisfaction.
3. Put together the right team: Now that you have identified the processes, assemble a team who will help you piece all the information together. You can involve one person from every field of the process to gain a firsthand perspective and vital inputs. The people in your team must also be able to give an idea on how to improve the process and act as inciters for the change imposed.
4. Do the research: Perspectives and insights will not be enough, though. So you need cold, hard data to arrive into a comprehensive flowchart. Procure testimonials from employees of different tiers in management to gain a better understanding of what are the prevalent problems. It is better to get an excess of information, and then filter it down rather than not getting enough, and then needing to backtrack your sources. Once you are done with the research, you can start trimming down the data by their degree of usefulness.
5. Start with the base of your map: Start drawing the baseline of your map, that is, the flawed and raw business operation you got. This will serve as a point of contrast for your new business model, which you are trying to map out with your flowchart, and will guide you in imposing amendments to strive for improvements. It will remind you of reasons why you affected those changes and proof of the things that need to change. Make sure not to miss any of the important components in your flow chart: processes, tasks, flows, events, and participants.
6. Impose changes: Now that all of the ideas have been rounded up and you already have a concrete baseline flow chart, it is time to apply the changes you think are needed for improvement. Creating flow charts is more than a necessary task to improve your business model, it is also a learning experience. It may be hard to impose large-scale changes so start with something small and work on it to come up with an improved structure.
7. Monitor improvements: The effect of the changes you imposed are only theoretical until these changes are implemented. Once your flow chart transcends to reality, monitor the progress and retract or optimize the processes depending on the direction they are going.
Tips for a Great Flow Chart
- Visualize roles: To help you out in conceptualizing your flow chart, visualize the roles of key persons involved in your business. Determine the people in charge and their responsibilities, and soon enough you will find yourself at a clear standpoint that will help you give a boost in jump starting your flow chart.
- Flow processes from left to right: Make your flow chart comprehensible by flowing the ideas from left to right. This is the usual reading direction and it will make your flow chart easier to understand.
- Use a split path in decision-making processes: The usual look of decision points in flow charts is a diamond process bubble connected diagonally to two outcomes. But this actually makes your flow chart look crowded and confusing. To remedy this, use the split path technique where the two outcomes are placed perpendicular with each other—the positive outcome is placed directly on the right of the diamond bubble and the negative outcome placed directly below the diamond bubble. Split technique makes the ideas flow from left to right that makes it easier to understand.
- Place return lines below your diagram: When a certain process redirects to a preceding step placed far away from it, place the return line below the diagram. Putting it this way arranges the information from top to bottom, which is another natural reading orientation.
- Keep everyone on the same page: To ensure that the changes you imposed will be effectively withheld, let everyone know about the flow chart you came up with. This will show the employees the big picture and will make them understand more about the changes. It will also create internal engagement that encourages them to support you.
Types of Flow Chart
- Process Flow Chart: This type of flow chart presents the different processes involved in a business according to how they are chronologically related to each other. It presents the interrelationship and connection of each process. It is also the most common type of flow chart.
- Swim Lane Flow Chart: The steps in this flow chart are grouped according to the team or individual responsible for them. Swim lane flow charts are used to determine key positions in a business process.
- Data Flow Diagram: It is the type of flow chart that focuses on the flow of data rather than the processes. Data flow diagrams are mainly used to acquire an overview of a system and does not really delve into great detail.
- Influence Flow Chart: Influence flow chart demonstrates the causality of the outcomes in a business model. Its purpose is to give reasons to decisions by portraying how each process is dependent with one another and by explaining the factors involved in the decision-making process.
Flow Chart Template Sizes
Flow charts are usually printed on standard US sizes of 8.5 inches by 11 inches (letter) or 8.5 inches by 14 inches (legal).
Flow Chart FAQs
What does SIPOC stand for in flow chart terminologies?
SIPOC stands for supplier, input, purpose, output, and customer. It is in the form of a table and gives an overview of a business model.
What softwares can I use to make a flow chart?
There are a hundred of softwares available to aid you in making your flow chart, but the most common ones are LucidChart, Microsoft Visio, and SmartDraw. Template.net also offers editable flow chart samples if you don’t want to start from scratch.
The endgame of a flow chart is to communicate your business process in a clear and concise manner. Don’t be fooled by its simplistic look because making one actually takes a ton of time. However, if you adhere to its essential elements and employ the right techniques, you will be coming up with an effective flow chart in no time.