How to Diagram a Process Flow

Process Flow image by Christopher Hall from Fotolia.com

Occasionally there are times when being able to visualize how something is done makes it easier to understand. Process flowcharts identify each step in a process in a written form that is similar to a map. Process flowcharts can be especially helpful when organizations want to streamline workflow. The flowchart lets decision-makers identify each step in the process and also see the interaction of the steps. Process flowcharting is something that can be accomplished in any organization.

Gather Team Members

Gather team members in a quiet meeting space. The space should be large enough for team members to move around, adequately secluded so discussion does not impact the rest of the office and have a white board to display the process flow as it is discussed. Each team member should also have paper/ pencil and "post it type" notes.

List the Process Steps to be Flowcharted

Inform the team of the process to be flow-charted. Have the team brainstorm all the steps in the process. Write the steps on the white board. Do not worry about what steps come first or last – just write down every step in the process. When all the steps in the process are listed, come to consensus with the team that every step has been written down. Write each step down on an individual "post it type" note. Erase the white board.

Decide the First and Last Steps then Work In

Decide which step starts the process. Stick that step on the board at the far left side. Decide which step ends the process. Stick that step on the right side of the board. Determine the second step in the process and place it just to the right of step one.

Continue this process with each step until all steps in the process are placed in their sequential order from the first step on the left to the last step in the right. This process will usually take some give-and-take among the team members to reach consensus.

Assign Appropriate Symbols

Assign appropriate symbols to each step in the process. An oval symbol is used at the beginning and the end of the process. Write an oval over the "post-it type" note on the first and last step of the process. Each subsequent action taken is identified with the square.

Each decision is identified with a diamond. Come to consensus with each team member on what type of symbol goes on which note on the process flow diagram. When complete, draw lines from each note to the next note in the process flow diagram.

Review the Flowchart

Analyze the flowchart. Most processes can be made more efficient once the process can be viewed on a chart. Check for duplicate steps or unnecessary workflow stoppages such as manager approvals or unnecessary rewrites.

Save the Process Flow Diagram

Use word processing software or flow charting software to make a permanent copy of the workflow process. Save the process flow diagram as a starting place for future process flow improvements.

References

Resources

Photo Credits

  • Process Flow image by Christopher Hall from Fotolia.com