Learn how to use flow charts to explain how processes work clearly to your team
Have you ever had to teach someone how to do a new task, or use a new process? If so, you'll know how easy it is for them to misunderstand instructions, or even forget them, along the way.
This is why flow charts are so useful.
Flow charts show a step-by-step picture of a process or task. Certain actions are represented by standard symbols so that people can quickly understand what they need to do at each stage.
Most flow charts use three main shapes. The first is an elongated circle. This signifies the start or the end of the process. The next is a rectangle, which represents instructions or actions. The other is a diamond. This indicates where a decision needs to be made.
All of these symbols are connected to one another by arrows, which show the flow of activity from one step to the next.
There are many other symbols that you can use, but keep in mind that these charts are used for COMMUNICATION. If you include a lot of obscure shapes, people might get confused. It's best to keep things as simple as possible.
Before you create your flow chart, brainstorm every step that must be taken, and every decision that must be made, to complete the process successfully. Ask yourself, “What really needs to happen in this process? Does a decision need to be made before the next step?”
When you're ready to draw your flow chart, start with the elongated circle. Then, move on to the next stage of the process.
For instance, imagine you're creating a flow chart to show your team how to handle customer calls. The first step is to answer the phone and to say, “How can I help you?” This is an action, so it would go into a rectangle. Then, your team must respond to the customer's query. This involves a decision, so this step would go into a diamond shape.
Your flow chart is going to divide into different directions here, since there are several options to consider. First, the customer might want to place an order. So you'd draw an arrowed line off to one side to create a new set of steps for product ordering. If the customer needs help with a product-related problem, then you would do the same but going straight down.
And so on.
Once you've completed your flow chart, so that every step, action and decision is represented in it, your team should be able to answer customer calls correctly just by looking at it.
You can find out more about using flow charts in the article that accompanies this video.