Flow Chart

The flow chart is a simple, but important, graphic organizer. Placing the states or steps of an event or process into the correct sequence allows you to reach conclusions and make predictions.

However, its simplicity means we don’t always work to be consistent and can benefit from a little effort to ensure users are aligned.

I am a huge fan of including flow charts in all process and procedure documents.

Steps for Building a flow chart

Capture

Capture the events or steps of the process. Resist the urge to arrange them sequentially and concentrate on capturing the events/steps only.

Cull

If there are more than eight steps in a flow chart we start creating cognitive overload. If a process or procedure has more than eight steps you need to:

  1. Ensure the steps are at the right level, sometimes we have substeps represented and we can cull that. Ensure they are all on the same level of process/procedure/task.
  2. Decide we need to break the procedure into multiple documents. This is a great way to decide what work instructions are necessary.
  3. Look for opportunity for process improvement.

Sequence the events and draw the flow chart

The focus now shifts to temporal relations. The correct sequential arrangements of steps or events helps to reach conclusions about past events and prepare for future events.

Example

I’m writing the procedure for my mornings, I capture the following:

  1. Eat breakfast
  2. Take shower
  3. Take dog out
  4. Get dressed
  5. Decide on tea
  6. Heat water
  7. Drink tea
  8. Read for 30 minutes
  9. Deal with morning email
  10. Snuggle with dog

Taking a look at the list I realize that not everything is on the same level of process/procedure/task and end up with a shorter list.

  1. Breakfast
  2. Take shower
  3. Take dog out
  4. Get dressed
  5. Read for 30 minutes
  6. Deal with morning email
  7. Snuggle with dog

Notice how I combined all the tea stuff into a breakfast category. When brainstorming my list I put a lot of weight on tea, because it is important to me (yes I have been using tea as a training example since 2005, I just love tea).

I can then put them in sequence:

Flow Chart for my morning

When I was making things sequential I realized that two of my activities (read and dog snuggle) were concurrent, so I combined them as one step.

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