Flow Charting - Process mapping

What is a flow chart

It is a visual illustration of the sequence of operations required to complete a task. 

Applicable to all processes - its step 2 to improvement. 

Step 1 is problem definition

When to use flow chart

  • To understand your process

  • identify improvement areas - such as unnecessary complexities, duplicate steps, unnecessary loops, a place to use ECRS

  • For team consensus and following education on the standard process

Variations
  • One notable enhancement would add doers/ function in a swim lane form - It is called a cross-functional or deployment flow chart - here's how to do it 

    • Identify the participants of the process from the start-to-top point. Place the customer at the upper left corner.

    • Identify the “trigger” or initial step and identify the “final” step

    • Identify who receives the output of the initial step and what activity they perform

    • Repeat by identifying who receives the output from the second step and what activity they perform

    • Continue identifying steps and align vertically with participants

  • Another type - more suitable for processes with too many decision boxes / high rework/inspection- is Alternate Path flow chart 

    • Write the % times next to the yes / no of the decision boxes.

    • Helps you identify, how many times, rework / rejection loop is started and accordingly you can prioritize and improve the process

    • this can be done either in a simple process flow chart or a cross-functional one

How to create a flow chart / process map

  • Identify Process Start & Endpoints

  • Agree on a level of detail, you wish to go to. Start with high level (COPIS)and then eventually go down to the micro level showing minute details 

  • Brainstorm or observe and note the steps - inputs, outputs, decisions, major activities, put them on post-its

  • Now arrange them in the sequence

  • Remember to check and ask - What are we showing - are we showing - "what is" OR "what it should be"

  • Right now you should do "what is"

  • Write the process step inside each appropriate symbol

    • Oval - Shows inputs to start the process and the outputs of the process

    • Rectangle - shows a task 

    • Diamond/rhombus - shows decision - two arrows must go out from it - for yes and no

    • Arrows - show direction of the process

    • more symbols are available to show other items like database, reports etc

  • Use simple language

  • Connect the Symbols with arrows showing the direction of flow

  • Validate the flowchart with a process expert/ other process members

  • You may now study this against 

    • what it should be

    • adherence

    • Problem areas ( see ECRS. Lean 7 Wastes, )

    • a similar process for best practice

  • Find opportunities, improve your process

Example of a flow chart

Flow chart
Cross functional flow chart