Knowing how to create a flowchart can make your work processes easier than ever. Flowcharts are a resource intended to help teams visualize complex processes.
In total, more than 30 standardized symbols can be used to create this type of diagram – which can indicate a variety of things, including a process, a document or decisions to be made, for example.
Flowcharts are an important tool for mapping tasks and activities within a business context – to document, in a schematic and illustrative way, the steps that are part of operational or intellectual procedures.
They help to visualize how these procedures occur, from the demand entry to its delivery. A flowchart is a totally visual tool, which schematically presents an operational flow – i.e. production, service, transport, transit of goods and inputs and execution, among others.
Created in 1921 by the engineer Frank B. Gilbreth – a specialist in efficiency and movement in the industry – this methodology uses geometric symbols and visual elements to represent the step-by-step execution of an activity.
The flowchart is a way to logically illustrate the sequence of tasks that make up a process, simplifying the understanding of activities and valuing the importance of each step to achieve the best final result.
What is the function of a flowchart?
The flowchart has numerous uses within a company, serving as an aid on several fronts. For this reason, it is considered an excellent tool in quality management, both in the search for certification and in the maintenance of certificates.
This tool makes it possible to map processes in a very descriptive and detailed way, allowing for a greater understanding of the overall journey.
The main uses of the process flowchart are:
- Documenting the steps: having a documented flowchart allows any manager to understand how a particular operation is performed, clearly viewing it step by step, and suggest improvements whenever necessary. You can use a flowchart maker to facilitate this process.
- Regulating the processes: the documentation of the process steps, in the form of an illustrative flow, makes it easier for everyone to know the order of execution of each task, visualizing the team’s work as the assembly of a puzzle, where each individual is essential for the delivery of the final product. Thanks to this tool, in the event of the absence of a collaborator, someone else can replace them without impeding progress. Clearly establishing how the tasks are carried out also helps to maintain quality, even if a change of teams is required.
- Implementing continuous improvement: by mapping the stages of execution of an activity, one by one, the flowchart helps in the ongoing review of processes, identifying opportunities for improvement, analyzing the consequences of the latest changes and measuring results. It also allows team members to identify failures and problems which may impact the company – thus preventing stagnation and keeping the team continuously up to date, implementing new process management methodologies .
- Encouraging increased productivity: with clear and well-defined steps, each employee understands where their responsibility begins and ends, and will oversee their respective tasks as efficiently as possible. Different situations that may arise are also clarified, leaving no space for doubts that cause delays in production. In this way, the increase in productivity is proven in the day-to-day operational routine.
What are the steps of a flowchart?
The flowchart process can be divided into several steps, using many different symbols. The most used steps include:
Start and end stages: the start and end steps are essential in any process, to understand the generation of actions and the output of the delivery. This step is marked by a symbol imitating the shape of a pill. In other words, the beginning is the input of demand, and the end is the output.
Process: the process step is illustrated by a rectangle; within it, the step to be performed in the process is specified.
Flow: arrows are used to indicate the direction of flow for each activity. These arrows clarify the sequence in which steps need to be performed to guarantee the best result.
Decision: moments that require decision are marked by diamonds, signifying a need for a clear decision between two or more different paths. This geometric figure is usually accompanied by arrows, indicating multiple possibilities.
Pre-defined process: rectangles with dark edges mean that the suggested step has already been validated in another flowchart.
Manual operation: the inverted trapeze symbol emphasizes the need for manual operation.
Document: the symbol used for this step is a rectangle with a wave at its base. It is used to symbolize the need to generate a document, which can be a report, a checklist or a certificate, among other things. If more than one document is required, this symbol will appear repeatedly.
Wait: the symbol representing the waiting stage is composed of a rectangle with one circular side. Its appearance in a process flowchart stands for a moment of pause between activities.
Connector: the final symbol used in this type of flowchart is the circle, which represents the connection between very long steps or different flows. In this situation, they replace the arrows to ensure greater understanding.
How to create a flowchart
Define the process to be represented:
To get started, you need to decide which process to map. This is usually the most problematic process, or the one with the greatest volume, because if you can measure and improve this process, then it can be replicated for smaller processes.
Another advantage is that any change in these processes will be representative of both quality and delivery volume.
Define the project scope:
To define the scope of the project, you’ll need to define the beginning and end of the project, what level of detail is required, whether it will be micro or macro, what details are needed, to whom you need to deliver and what you need to extract from this process.
In this way, there will be no problems related to a lack of details, or an excess of details and information which, depending on the process, is not necessary.
Define the activities:
At this stage of building your flowchart, you should define which activities are taking place during the process and organize them in the most appropriate way possible. In other words, analyze how each activity will be worked on and its relative importance, in order to define the sequence that will make the process as agile as possible.
Draw the symbols:
As we have seen, the flowchart is a visual representation, using symbols to represent the stages of the process and the decisions to be made. Drawing these symbols correctly and according to established standards makes the whole process clearer.
In this way, reading the flowchart becomes universal, and anyone with knowledge of this tool can interpret and understand the processes and steps which are taking place.
Learning how to create a flowchart is a positive gain for any process. All activities and their participants should be listed while the document is being prepared, to minimize the possibility of having mismatched points, and improve the development of activities.