What are some well-designed flowcharts

Author: Leanne Armstrong

If you have never worked with flowcharts before, you will be in for a pleasant surprise. Not only are flowcharts a great way to systematically map and manage workflows and tasks, they also make all kinds of complicated processes easier to see and understand.

This article will walk you through how you can use a flowchart maker like MindManager to make any project run more smoothly.

What is a flowchart?

A flowchart is a visual representation of each step in a workflow or process.

By sequentially connecting these steps as a series of text-filled symbols or shapes, flowcharts show

  • Which direction a chain of events flows
  • what tasks are being done as part of a particular process
  • where decisions need to be made and what happens next

Flowcharts make it easier for teams to follow work processes from one end to the other. And that makes them a powerful alignment tool when it comes to creating, documenting, analyzing, or improving the way work is done.

How to use a flowchart

Because they allow you to visually represent work journeys, you can use a flowchart template to set personal or team goals for various business activities. They are often the means of choice for explaining complex processes without technical jargon.

Here are a few examples of flowcharts outlining areas where these step-by-step diagrams are particularly useful:

  • Project management and planning. Are you leading a project? Then flow charts are an invaluable help - especially in the planning phase. Use your diagram to make collaboration between individuals or departments easier by showing the steps your team needs to take.
  • Program, product or system design. Designing a new way of doing something poses a number of challenges. Using a flowchart can help level the playing field when your group ventures into uncharted territory together - for example, when you are supposed to create a great user experience design.
  • Workflow documentation. Documenting a workflow or process using a flowchart maker gives you a visual, easily accessible point of reference when you need inspiration, discuss a problem, make improvements, demonstrate compliance, or share knowledge with new employees.
  • Process audit and decision making. Troubleshooting, cost cutting, and efficiency initiatives are all made easier by using flowcharts to explore your options. Decision flow diagrams (also known as decision tree diagrams) are just one example of how you can review failed or inadequate processes from different angles.

MindManager flowcharts come in a variety of shapes and sizes - from process maps to swim lane diagrams. Whether you want to highlight and explore hiccups in your workflow, or identify ways to increase output, it's easy to create the chart you want.

How to make a flowchart

Since the purpose of a flowchart is to illustrate a process or the sequence of events, standardized symbols are the key to communicating in a “language” that everyone understands.

The 3 most basic flowchart symbols are:

  • Oval shapes (indicate the start or end points of the workflow)
  • Rectangular shapes (indicate individual steps)
  • Diamond shapes (indicate decision points)

Here's how to create a flowchart in 4 easy steps.

Step 1:

Determine the purpose of your flowchart and list the different steps you need to include.

Step 2:

Use a labeled oval shape to represent the starting position of your process or workflow. Then, with the list you just made in hand, start at your oval and use arrow lines to connect each step or task in the correct order. These steps should be represented by rectangles with short, text-based descriptions inside.

Step 3:

Use diamond shapes to indicate where decisions are needed in your process - and arrow lines to connect each diamond to new or repeated steps resulting from your decisions.

Step # 4:

Use a labeled oval shape to represent the end of your process or workflow.

And that was it!

It's worth noting that MindManager makes it easy to add, delete, edit, and rearrange your flowchart template as you work. You can also attach external data, notes, documents and links to other maps and diagrams to complete your process as needed.

Example of a flow chart

No matter how you use it, a flowchart is equally effective whether it drives or supports your initiative.

Here is a very simple example.

Let's say you and a friend want to design, store, and sell originally designed T-shirts. However, none of you have run a business before so it is difficult to imagine what the ordering process will be like for customers.

Since you need to finish this last part of your business plan before your appointment at the bank tomorrow, your friend suggests using a flowchart to get a handle on your customer order workflow.

You begin by listing the series of steps that await you as part of this process.

  • Your customer places an order
  • You take the shirts you want from your inventory and set them aside
  • You process your customer's payment
  • You pack and ship the order
  • The receipt of the delivery is confirmed
  • You make sure that your customer is satisfied

Use directional arrows and the appropriate flowchart symbols (in this case, ovals and rectangles) to identify these steps in your diagram.

ORDER OBSERVED (starting point of the process)> picking> payment processing> dispatch of the order> delivery confirmation> CUSTOMER FOLLOW-UP (end point of the process)

So far so good. Here's what your simple flowchart would look like:

However, you are smart enough to realize that t-shirt inventory will fluctuate and that not every customer checkout will be successful.

So you identify where decisions need to be made and use diamond shapes to manipulate and restructure your flowchart at two different points.

Point 1

ORDER KEEPING (starting point of the process)> Product in stock?

YES> stock picked> payment processed ...

NO> Additional inventory created> Product in stock?

YES> outsourced> payment made ...

Point # 2

ORDER OBSERVED (starting point of the process)> Stock picked> Payment processed> Payment approved?

YES> order sent ...

NO> Received new payment method from customer> Payment processed> Payment approved?

YES> order sent ...

NO> ORDER CANCELED (new process endpoint)

In order to make this process as clear as possible, both for you and for the bank, label the arrow lines branching off your diamonds with the words YES or NO and connect them with new rectangles or again with previous rectangles if previous steps have to be repeated.

If you followed these steps, your new flowchart would look like this:

Now that you feel much more confident about how your customer ordering process will go, finish your business plan, meet your bank deadline - and get the credit you need to start making t-shirts.

Use cases for flowcharts

Flowcharts are so versatile that we are sure you won't have trouble finding ways that you, your team, and your company can use and benefit from them - especially when you need them:

  • to represent the processes for the creation of new products or systems
  • Explore areas where the quality or efficiency could be improved in an existing workflow
  • Visualize the tasks or decisions that arise in planning your next project

If you need a little more help getting started, here are some more flowchart examples in the form of specific use cases.

Company A wants to improve its approach to sales training.

Given the high turnover in the sales department and the fact that leaving employees were not always convinced of their ability to close a sale, the company recognized the need to train new salespeople better. They use a flowchart to document their sales process from start to finish and use it as a central topic of conversation in future introductory meetings.

As salespeople perform better, turnover decreases and revenue increases.

Company B wants to create a simple but effective set of product guides.

Despite its popularity, surveys show that many customers find the company's flagship product difficult to assemble and use. Realizing the need for guidance to simplify these processes for future buyers, the company is printing flowcharts that show how to assemble the product and troubleshoot it step-by-step.

By providing these guides with the product, the company soon realizes that it will spend less time on customer service.

Company C wants to customize its service.

The company has had great success with its basic house cleaning service, but receives many inquiries for additional services such as window cleaning and upholstery cleaning. Realizing that custom packages require additional time, equipment, and manpower, the company uses flowcharts to design revised workflow options and determine cost feasibility. Ultimately, the company realizes that the customization of the service cannot be financed at the moment.

The company decides to put the adjustment on hold until it has examined outside investment opportunities.

Remember, whatever your reasons for visualizing a process or workflow, MindManager has the flowcharts to make your work easier - and a free trial that you can get started with today!

MindManager flowchart examples for download

Click the images below to access the flowchart examples shown above. Click on "Menu" in the lower left corner of your browser window and then click on "Download" to get a copy of the template. Open the template in MindManager to start working.

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