Tag Archives: flow chart

Using Flow Charts

Often we have a process through which we want to increase the throughput or output without adding resources. In these situations a Process Flow Chart or Process Evaluation Chart is an excellent tool to start with.

A Process Flow Chart or Process Evaluation Chart (the latter is populated with measurement data) can be created by bringing together the participants in the process and mapping it out together. Some organizations believe that mapping the processes with the frontline associates always results in lightbulbs going on and the associates voicing concerns and ideas once their process is on the wall.

There are always surprises, they find ‘black holes’ or dead ends, see the ‘wastes’, waiting and handovers get visible and they learn what the other ‘swim-lanes’ (teams or team members) do and how what they do impacts others and vice versa. They always start to create action logs based on the concerns/ideas and they serve as the basis for the improvement project.

Another approach is to start with observation. Follow the process, observe the work and gather what data is available about the current process. This can be compiled into a draft of a flow chart to bring to a meeting with participants from all areas of the process under study. At this meeting, the group goes through the draft, discussing, adding to, questioning, and correcting the draft to better reflect reality.

Below is a graphic summary of flow chart symbols and their meaning:

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.

Continuous Improvement & Key Charting Tools

In an earlier post we shared thoughts on “Ten Continuous Improvement Tools,” each of which designed to help people  examine current reality from a different angle.

Included in the list are several key charting tools, which are particularly useful for sifting through potentially large quantities of data and translating the data into more useful information. These tools also make the work more “visible,” and give those involved in studying the work a common language.

Here is a list of five key charting tools:

  1. paretoPareto: simple bar chart that ranks and displays data in descending order, and that helps us decide what to work on — the “vital few” vs. the “less important many.”  Often referenced as the 80/20 principle.
  2. runchartRun:  A run chart is a graph that displays data points of some characteristic being measured as they occur over time. It is used to visually display process performance over time and to identify meaningful trends or shifts in the average, thus telling us  “how things are going” and prompting us on what to investigate further.
  3. flowchartFlow: A flow chart is a simple diagram of the steps in a process. It is used to identify actual or ideal paths that a process follows, and shows basic steps and decision points, recycle loops, work and wait times, and can highlight problems or opportunities for improvement
  4. histogramHistogram: A column chart showing the distribution of values by frequency. It is a set of data with a range of measurements. The height of a bar corresponds to the relative frequency of the amount of data in the class.
  5. fishboneFishbone: A charting technique used for identifying all of the possible causes of particular “effect” or problem… for linking conditions for results. A fishbone chart can help us identify root causes of problems by asking the simple question,  “why?”  multiple times.