Use flowcharts to document your work processes
You’ve probably heard the term flowchart or workflow before. It’s a technique that’s used across different industries and workplaces to help map out processes and manage tasks in a systematic way. But what exactly are flowcharts? And how can you build one out for your own processes?
What is a flowchart?
A flowchart is a visualization that illustrates the sequence of tasks and work to complete a business process or project. The diagrams, which leverage standardized shapes and symbols, are used to document and analyze a current work process from start to finish. Documenting existing workflows can highlight issues and reveal opportunities to improve efficiency, quality and output. Flowcharts provide a common language and understanding of a process ensuring team member alignment.
Here’s a Flowchart example where each box represents a step in the process, the arrows connecting the boxes indicate the sequence and the diamonds represent a choice or decision in the process where the flow can go two or more directions.
When should you use flowchart diagrams?
Some common uses for Flowchart diagrams include:
Planning a New Project: During the planning stage of the project management process, flowcharts are often used to map out the steps in the new envisioned process, service or product that is being implemented. It creates a common understanding of the work, facilitating collaboration between teams.
Documenting a Process: Organizations often document processes to comply with regulations in their industry, support implementations and configurations of large scale systems and custom development, prepare for the sale of an organization, and in some cases, to support customers who are seeking assurance that an organization is reliable, secure, and on top of their game.
Designing a New Process: Similar to documenting an existing process, workflows may be used for process improvement by diagnosing issues and redesigning flows to streamline and improve the quality of the outcomes.
Making a Decision: A decision flowchart (or decision tree) visualizes the different options in any important business decision.
How to create flowcharts using MindManager
Step 1: In MindManager, go to the File menu, select New, and then select the flowchart template.
Step 2: Add each step in the workflow diagram. MindManager includes the following standard shapes to document your flows:
Each of these shapes should be connected with relationship lines (with arrows) to indicate the direction or flow of each step.
Step 3: Continue adding all the steps of the workflow, reorganizing along the way to make the final diagram easier to read and understand. MindManager also offers several swimlane diagram templates to support the illustration of a workflow as it cuts across different departments, resources or categories.
10 MindManager features for flowchart diagrams
MindManager offers a specific ‘flowcharting’ mode which makes it easier to add connected steps in a process. But, beyond the basics, one can take advantage of the platform’s depth of functionality to make your flowchart a powerful communication tool. Here are a few ways to augment your flowchart and tap into MindManager’s rich set of functionality:
- Start with a new blank flowchart template or utilize one of the swimlane flowchart templates.
- Use color (fonts, topic fill color) to categorize different steps in your workflow.
- Change font characteristics to emphasize different steps and their importance (i.e. bold, larger fonts, different font types, etc.).
- Use topic images to add greater context and enhance the visualizations.
- Write topic notes for more in-depth details related to each step.
- Apply icons and tags to further categorize steps.
- Hyperlink or add attachments to provide more details.
- Assign resources to clarify who is responsible or accountable for each step.
- View the diagram through multiple lenses. For instance, switch views to see all the steps by priority, by resource or any of the other tags and icons.
- Share your diagram by either publishing it onto the web (and sharing a link) where anyone can open and view the workflow diagram interactively in their browser or export the diagram into a variety of different formats (e.g. Microsoft Word, HTML5, Microsoft Project, etc.).
Each of the above flowchart features allows you to tailor and customize your diagrams to your unique processes and workflows.
About the Author:
Michael Deutch is a brand ambassador for MindManager software. After 12 years of working on the MindManager portfolio as VP of Product and, previously, Director of Product and Marketing Solutions, Michael’s extensive product experience makes him an ideal ambassador.