This video describes the features of the flowchart diagram, including common symbols, formatting options, and the instances where you would apply each of them.
- Flowchart diagrams are like stepping stones across a river. Each one on its own is like a tiny island that you can balance on. Put them all together and you have a safe and secure way across to the other side. The flowchart diagram, or process map, is the start-to-finish process of a single activity and a single actor. Each step is mapped out in the required sequence. One of the main features in a flowchart process map is the ability to isolate each activity. This means that the activity can be taught, assessed, refined, and updated without having to update the cross-functional flow diagram that they refer back to.
Flowchart process maps should always trace back to their parent cross-functional flow diagram. You'll never dream of putting a stack of detail into the cross-functional flow diagram. It's just not practical. Neither is putting a whole heap of steps. It quickly begins to overwhelm the diagram. This is where the flowchart diagram is perfect. On it, you choose to group steps together in what we call predefined or subprocesses. These are expanded further in detail in your flowcharts or process maps.
Before we get into how to create flowcharts, let's take a closer look at the specific features of the flowchart process map. The main difference that you will immediately see between this level of diagram and the cross-functional flow diagram is that there are no swim lanes. This is because you are only concentrating on a single actor. In other words, there is no interaction with any other functional area. You'll also notice that the workflows don't flow from left to right necessarily. They can flow in whichever direction that suits your needs.
Normally, the trigger, or starting point, starts in the top left-hand corner. They're usually mapped out in a logical way where they can easily be followed, and where possible, fitted onto a single page. Like the cross-functional flowchart parent, the flowchart process maps use the standard flowchart symbols. There are many different flowchart symbols, and each has a specific purpose. The most commonly used are the process box, decision diamond, and the arrow or connector used to link them all together and show the direction of the workflow.
Every flowchart process map will have a starting point and an endpoint. The start, or trigger, can be both a solid circle or a curved-in rectangle and found at the top left-hand corner of the map. The flowchart process map then continues to document the actor's step by step tasks using process boxes and decision diamonds linked with connectors until they reach the end and the actor has completed the required tasks. You'll also notice the use of alternate paths coming from the diamond decisions, linking activities back to other process boxes, which leads to completing the end-to-end process.
In this example, you will see that there are two endpoints based on the outcome of those decisions. Remember to always use verb/noun combinations as your descriptors, such as "Get customer information," in process boxes and questions for decision diamonds. Using each of these flowchart features is useful on their own, but lay them all down together and you have a safe passage across the roaring river.
- Using common modeling tools
- Determining when to use a particular modeling diagram
- Avoiding the pitfalls associated with each diagram
- Creating diagrams
- Leveraging key stakeholders