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5 Flowchart Challenges You’ll Want Your Team to Know About

5 Flowchart Challenges You’ll Want Your Team to Know About- image - 1

Where do flowcharts fit in Daily Process Management?

As an experienced Improvement Practitioner, you’ll already know that the strength of flowcharts lies in the ‘Standardise’ phase of the perpetual cycle of Standardise, Maintain, and Improve (SMI).

When a process is fully defined, it can be operated consistently, every time.  Flowcharts will give your team a coherent and shared view of the process steps, who’s responsible and the interactions between them, thus enabling you to achieve optimal performance.

Helping your team to establish and understand the flow of work, and therefore the context in which work is delivered, is key to their performance.  Sounds simple, but do you know what’s getting in the way of your flowcharts being as effective as possible?

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Helping your team overcome typical flowchart challenges

When it’s done well, facilitating the people in your team and wider organisation to effectively and clearly define the current state of their processes will provide a foundation for your improvement efforts.  Experience also tells us that the flowchart is an essential tool to help sustain the gains you’ve made as part of an initiative, an invaluable part of your daily process management activities.

So, what are the 5 key flowchart challenges that your team faces when aiming for maximum value from this top improvement tool?

 

1. They are written by people outside of the process

Flowcharts written without involving the people who do the work are often not a true representation of how the work works, and may fail to take into account nuances of different locations.  They should document the best-known way, and it is experienced process operators who have this valuable insight to add when creating flowcharts.

 

2. They document the how but not the why

Repeating processes without questioning their purpose can result in siloed working.  When creating flowcharts, keep in mind the question: “what are we trying to accomplish?” and ensure the purpose is clearly stated at the top of the flowchart.  Empower your team – your process operators, by explaining the purpose behind the activities they carry out and the value they add for their customers.

 

3. They are too complicated

Overuse of technical or corporate language combined with long, complicated sentences, leads to cumbersome flowcharts that are difficult to follow.  Utilise simple verb-noun methodology to focus on the deliverables, and maximise the benefits of visual signposts; use photos, diagrams, links to Standard Operating Procedures, even videos to demonstrate the ‘how’.

 

4. They are outdated

As an organisation that practices Daily Process Management, you’ll identify regular opportunities to improve processes. Failing to keep flowcharts current can generate inconsistent output causing variation in quality, speed, and cost.  Process confirmation will help you to incorporate changes.  Remember to maintain a record of the reason for the change.

 

5. They are not communicated

Well-written flowcharts have little value for a team if they’re not aware of them, or adequately trained in using them.  Clearly state version numbers and review dates on published updates, and ensure they can be accessed easily at the point of need – including when looking for improvement opportunities.  Hyperlinks in the flow of work can be a great way to maintain access.

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The influence of effective flowcharts in a culture of Continuous Improvement

As an active practitioner you’re aware of process mapping and its benefits.  However, what sometimes gets lost, and is a big part of putting Continuous Improvement at the heart of your culture, is enabling everyone, at every level of a business, to understand the process they work in, and where it fits in the overall business system.  It means that your team can operate, measure and improve their process in real-time.  Doing the everyday work and improving it is seen as everyone’s job… it’s natural.

This means that flowcharting is a simple and effective way to get everyone involved in the improvement and the tools for Daily Process Management, if you:

Follow these top tips for effective flowcharts:

  • Ensure all operators are involved – they may have different perspectives on the process
  • Clearly define the start and end of the process to avoid changes in scope
  • Test it! Walk the process to verify the flowchart and clarify any uncertainties
  • Look for measurement opportunities. If you can measure it, you can improve it!
  • Create and maintain a master list of flowcharts including title, current version number and review dates

 

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