How to Make a Flowchart

by Contributor - Updated September 26, 2017
Flowcharts help people visualize a process.

Making a flowchart is the easiest way to illustrate a process. Flowcharting allows you to break down any process into individual jobs, tasks or activities and to display them in a way that shows the logical relationships between them. You can create a flowchart either by hand or with the assistance of a computer program designed to create flowcharts. Sometimes, it is useful to try both methods.

Determine the process you are charting. Conduct a brainstorming session and identify the name of the process, the functions, people or departments involved in the process and the steps as you know them.

List the functions, departments or people involved down the left side of a large sheet of drafting paper. Write each of the steps on a sticky or Post-it note. For steps that show a decision point -- a step in the process that asks a question usually requiring a yes or no answer -- angle the notes in the shape of a diamond and write the question on them. The response will determine the direction the next steps in the flow charts take.

Place the notes on the paper to the right of the list of functions, people or departments. Move them around so they are in the correct order, and connect them with lines and arrows showing the direction of the flow. Make sure the process flows forward, without backtracking.

Review the chart for possible disconnects -- areas where the steps do not work or where the process needs improvement or reworking to avoid backtracking. You can improve the process by changing, adding or subtracting steps to make the process flow more smoothly.

Use a computer drawing program or a specific flowcharting program to create the steps, lines and arrows that match your hand-drawn flowchart. Type the steps and decision questions into the various shapes for flowcharting steps.

Tips

  • In most circumstances, you can rely on three or four simple symbols or shapes to cover most types of events in a flowchart. The simplest shapes are rectangles for steps and diamonds for decision points.

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