Being a business owner is as much about great leadership as it is about effective management. Managing your business means you always have to stay on top of your game every day and strive to improve the efficiency of your operations. As skilled as your workers are, there are tools and resources a workplace simply cannot do without, in learning and mastering processes especially if you wish to keep up with the competition.
As a business owner, you would want to make sure that your workers can compete and deliver the best results possible. After all, the products and services of business are only as good as the ones providing and making them. To improve efficiency and productivity in the workplace and for your employees to accomplish tasks easier, you can use flow charts with the following elements as a visual representation of your processes:
1. Symbols: An ideal flow chart would have many shapes and symbols, each representing a certain step or action in the process, with short descriptions. For instance, a product inventory team’s flow chart may have rectangles with instructions such as “distribute count sheets.”
2. Pre-defined Process: Often a series of instructions or steps that when combined, counts as a sub-process that is further explained elsewhere, usually on another page of the same chart or drawing.
3. Decision Points: Decision points are sequence indicators in the process where the end user can choose between options such as “yes-no” or “true-false” for answers which would then branch out to different parts of the flow chart.
4. Annotations: These are especially useful when determining the location of a page or process that is yet to be fully developed, making it fit into the structure to keep the flow organized. Annotations can also be notes or comments for specific team members for you to get back to and further develop or complete.
5. Connecting Lines/Arrows: Arrows serves as the diagram as you progress through the chart, to the choices made at corresponding points of actions or decisions within the process.
On top of management tasks, finding ways to improve business activity and processes can be very challenging whether it’s for setting up a website, developing a new project, or organizing the company’s workforce. With that said, flow charts are the best visual representation in communicating business processes.
Follow these steps to make sure that you end up with an effective flow chart for your employees:
1. Use consistent design elements: Using shapes, text, and lines in a simple flow chart makes it more understandable but it should be consistent. If you want to use arrows to diagram the chart, you can’t switch to straight lines in the middle otherwise it would be very confusing to the one who reads it. Consistency also gets rid of distractions and makes the workflow easier to follow.
2. Keep everything on one page: It’s wiser to make sure that the whole chart can fit on a single page and the text is readable because when your diagram is too large to fit on the page, you have to break it into multiple charts and connect them together using hyperlinks.
3. Flow data from left to right: Organizing data in a left-to-right sequence makes it better for participants or audience to understand information.
4. Return lines should be under the flow diagram: It’s inherent for us to read text from the top going to the bottom of the page so it makes sense that return lines should be found under the flow chart and not above it. In the event that you need two return lines, the two shouldn’t overlap.
5. Add symbols as necessary: You can add symbols to the chart especially if it’s meant to serve as a process flow diagram, with each symbol representing an individual or team responsible for a specific task, output or decision. You can evaluate if any of these people or teams had overextended or can be eliminated from the process, depending on what the flow chart reveals.
Understanding the major uses of different flow charts can help you run your business more efficiently. Below are the two most common flow charts used in business:
If one page can’t justify your process, you can make a master flowchart with a number of subroutines which you’ll have to break down on your auxiliary charts.
A flow chart becomes more useful when it is on one page or screen. If you think the process you’re mapping out is complex and requires more space, consider minimizing the level of detail in the chart.
A well-designed flow chart with all its necessary elements creates a visual map, helping you to better represent a process with great clarity than wordy descriptions. Because people are inherently visual, it’s a lot easier to understand and appreciate a process, (or anything for that matter) when it’s graphically represented.