Archive for the ‘Flowcharts’ Category

The use of flowcharts causes much discussion, with everyone having an opinion as to the best style and structure. However, what’s all the fuss about when they are not even mandated as part of a QMS?  9001 states that the QMS can be recorded on any format so why not carry on doing what we always did and write those text based diatribes from yesteryear.


A picture speaks a thousand words

Well, for one, those of use running systems should always be developing them towards best practice.  With the emergence of a visual representative within the lean philosophy there has been growing pressure to move other management systems into line.  Secondly, the solely text based system is no fun to read, particularly if  formatted as if paper was going out of fashion, and a nightmare to write thus failing to address the requirement in the standard for ‘effective communication’ to those involved.

Now admittedly we could veer off here into learning patterns, but most would agree that a visual procedure wins hands down being more popular as a learning tool with most people. They also prove more efficient in trouble shooting a process in the first place when people get down to mapping it out.

Another serious disadvantage is that it doesn’t effectively depict ownership too well as they tend to be written in the sequence of the process so it jumps around the relevant departments and personnel.  A flowchart works far better with its ‘swimming lane’ approach as you can see ownership move before your very eyes.  Users can also scan it quickly to see how much of the process drops into their lap!

Personally I don’t advocate spending endless hours making sure you have the right symbol for absolutely every box, make do with a basic set that everyone understands.  However, it is useful to bring out key operations like Hold points with a symbol and colour that catches the eye.

Finally, for those with the skill, you can hyperlink the various operations in the process to any other part of the system.  Could be related procedures, forms, work instruction – just about anything that the user needs to have at their disposal.  That with a cool format makes them far more likely to be accepted and read.  Would you agree?