Tag Archives: continuous improvement tools

All About Flow Charts

Sample Flow Chart

A simple yet extremely useful improvement tool, a flowchart is a type of diagram that represents a workflow or process. As a graphic depiction or visual map, a flowchart can represent a process with greater clarity than text descriptions alone, thus enabling people to more easily view and follow the “steps.” Consequently, they are very useful when communicating with users or managers about policies, rules, and unnecessary, duplicitous or cumbersome steps within a work process, and help to quickly highlight problems or opportunities for improvement.

When creating a flowchart, process steps are shown as shapes of various kinds, and their order by connecting the shapes with arrows or lines. Different shapes are used to indicate actions, decision points, recycle loops, work and wait times.

Among the most commonly-used shapes are the following:

Common Flow Chart Symbols

Originally, flowcharts were created by hand using pencil and paper. Before the advent of the personal computer, drawing templates made of plastic flowchart shape outlines helped flowchart makers work more quickly and gave their diagrams a more consistent look. Today’s flowcharts are typically created using software.

Ten Continuous Improvement Tools

citoolsWhen involved in continuous improvement, there are a number of useful and necessary tools that one might use.

Ultimately, persistent problems cannot be solved by repeatedly using the same knowledge and insights; solutions require the innovative use of multiple problem-solving tools to examine current reality from a variety of different angles. Here are 10 tools you might consider using:

  1. Pareto Charts to explore ideas about possible causes
  2. Process Mapping to spot and quantify the waste and trace it to the primary cause
  3. Cause and Effect Diagramming to stretch beyond initial ideas about possible root causes
  4. Histograms to provide new insights into the dynamics of process performance
  5. Run Charts to understand current process performance and distinguish between random variation and special causes
  6. Scatter Diagrams to clarify the importance of possible causal factors on results measurements
  7. Affinity Diagrams to find breakthrough ideas and natural relationships among the data
  8. Priority Matrices to consider alternatives and identify the right things to work on
  9. Interrelationship Digraphs to visually demonstrate the relationship among factors—causal factors (drivers) vs. symptoms so that you get the most leverage on interventions
  10. A dependable method of analyzing the data as outlined in recent posts