There are many advantages of a flowchart not found in other forms of documentation or business materials. Flowcharts can be used to communicate a core business process among many people very quickly, making it an effective way of training employees.

This simplified approach to communicating the way a process works is suitable for introducing people to that process, but more in-depth analysis requires additional documentation.

The Basics of Flowcharts

A flowchart might also be called a process flowchart or process flow diagram.

These charts are used to illustrate the different steps in a process in a specific order. The use of these charts is valuable because they help visualize the specific order in which a process should unfold.

Flowcharts typically consist of both inputs and outputs, which help visualize the work that goes into the process and the results of the process itself.

Times to Use a Flowchart

There are a number of times that a flowchart should be used within an organization that may be beneficial. Flowcharts are most often used to help understand how a process is completed. An existing process can be reviewed and the different inputs and outputs reviewed.

This can help organizations better understand a process and where that process can be improved, making the process more effective.

In practice, flowcharts are used to communicate with others, either as individuals or in groups, and instruct them on how a process is completed. Integrating new team members may require flowcharts, since those new members may need to become familiar with the process that the group goes through to complete a task.

These charts don’t necessarily have to be presented in face-to-face demonstrations. Organizations can instead document the process and include that documentation as part of an employee’s orientation.

Use in Training Materials

As suggested above, flowcharts are typically instructional in nature, so they are often included in training materials. The advantage of flowcharts in this case is that they help to communicate a process rapidly to a number of people simultaneously.

Rather than having to review that process individually with employees, the process can be reviewed independently by staff members. This helps to more effectively communicate information rapidly.

Use in Continuous Improvement

The importance of flowcharts can also be seen in the area of continuous improvement. Businesses need to regularly revisit their business's processes and analyze every step of the process. A review of that process can reveal areas where the business is wasting resources or spending too much time.

This can lead to a more in-depth analysis of the individual steps in the process, allowing a business to better understand how it can improve that particular step. This then leads to the creation of a revised business process that should result in improved outcomes.

Limitations to Flowcharts

The limitations of a flowchart lie in its inherent simplicity. A flowchart is designed to provide a visualized overview of a process, and processes can range from general business processes to the specific production process behind making a product.

Flowcharts tend to oversimplify these processes in order to make it easier for people to understand.

This oversimplification can have some significant consequences. The details underlying each step in the process require much greater independent analysis to be fully understood, particularly when that step itself is highly complex.

Another problem with flowcharts is that they can easily misrepresent the process. Each symbol in the flowchart indicates a step to be taken. Misplacing these steps in the flowchart can lead to significant misunderstanding about how the process should be completed.

While there are many advantages to using a flowchart to communicate a simplified version of a process, flowcharts need to be presented accurately, along with more detailed information about each step.