Understanding how a business works can be challenging, especially when processes involve multiple departments, systems, and stakeholders. Getting a handle on cross-functional workflows is crucial for identifying inefficiencies, reducing costs, and driving continuous improvement. This is where creating flowcharts can provide clarity and insight. By visually mapping out sequences of activities, flowcharts allow you to analyze bottlenecks, redundancies, and opportunities for optimization across far-reaching business procedures.
Introducing Flowcharts for Process Analysis
A flowchart is a visual diagram that outlines a multistep process by using standard shapes connected with arrows to denote sequence and direction. Each shape represents a distinct step, while arrows indicate flow and order of actions. Flowcharts commonly depict the performers, inputs and outputs, and decisions involved at each phase of a wider workflow. They provide an intuitive at-a-glance view of complex interdependent processes spanning products, services, departments, and systems.
Visualizing processes with flowcharts enables you to thoroughly evaluate their as-is state as a precursor to designing improvements. Mapping out all activities, stakeholders, contingencies, and decision points opens your eyes to pain points as candidates for positive change.
Constructing a Current State Flowchart
To analyze any business process through a flowchart, start by clearly defining the specific workflow you want to diagram. Determine the beginning and end points of the sequence. Then work to map out each step in between chronologically.
You can build flowcharts of increasing granularity. High-level versions may condense sub-processes using single shape representations. More detailed flowcharts unpack all subprocess elements as modular components. The level of magnification depends on your analytical needs and priorities.
As you chart the progression of activities, take note of key attributes to capture including:
- Process performers and owners
- Inputs required and outputs generated
- Systems, tools, and technologies used
- Decision points and contingency branches
- Interdepartmental handoffs
Adding this metadata will further enrich your visual model for in-depth analysis.
Analyzing Process Flowcharts
Once you map the current state, you can perform a systematic analysis of its dynamics and constituents. Here are starter questions to ask to help pinpoint process constraints and areas for improvement:
- Where are potential bottlenecks happening? What’s constraining throughput?
- What redundant or duplicate efforts take place? Are any rework loops necessary?
- What activities add vs. detract business value? Can any be simplified or consolidated?
- How many decision points occur? Can contingencies be standardized?
- How many departments, systems, or stakeholders interact? Can touchpoints be optimized?
- Do employees have adequate visibility? What metrics, data, or oversight may be lacking?
- Where might automation generate efficiencies? Can tools or technologies streamline workflows?
The visual format of flowcharts lets you spot such opportunities at a glance. Seeing all the end-to-end steps aggregated offers rare insight to help tackle cross-functional challenges.
Realize the Full Potential of Flowcharts
Flowcharts are invaluable yet underutilized instruments in the business process professional’s toolkit. Visually mapping workflows at various magnifications unlocks transparency into who does what when across far-reaching operations. Constructing current state models provides diagnostic clarity to strengthen any value chain. Manipulating future state iterations then accelerates data-backed process reengineering. Harness flowcharts and realize the full potential of this versatile technique for analyzing and elevating your organization’s most essential business processes.