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What Is a Flow Process Chart?

Flow process charts can identify areas of strength and weakness in the operations of an organization.
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  • Written By: Mandi Rogier
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A flow process chart is a diagram that utilizes both text and symbols to show the actions required to complete a given process. This type of chart lays out each step in chronological order, with symbols indicating the beginning and ending of the process as well as decisions and actions that occur along the way. A flow process chart is useful for visualizing the procedure in question and identifying areas of weakness.

Process flow symbols typically include three distinct shapes. An oval is used to signify the beginning and ending points of the process. A rectangle indicates actions, and a diamond indicates a decision. Each shape is connected to other shapes by an arrow, which leads the viewer from one process to the next. Each shape contains words describing that step of the process.

A flow process chart typically has a single start point. This may be labeled "Start" or it may indicate the purpose of the chart, such as "Customer Service Call." From this point, arrows will lead to possible actions or decisions. Continuing with the previous example, a flow process chart on dealing with customer service calls may include questions that the caller should be asked, such as "What system are you operating on?" Each question will branch out to possible answers. These answers may lead to another question to further clarify the problem, or a solution which will effectively achieve the goal of the call.

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After a series of decisions and actions, the flow process chart will ultimately lead to an end point. Some charts will have a single beginning and end, while others can result in multiple conclusions. A customer service call could end with a variety of solutions fitting for the problem. The chart may end there, or point each solution to another action, such as a prompt to complete a survey on the effectiveness of the service.

Actions or decisions that apply to more than one scenario will not appear multiple times on a flow process chart. The unifying process will appear once with multiple arrows leading up to it. If the final goal of the flow chart is the same regardless of the process, the oval signifying the end point of the chart may be traced back to multiple actions or decisions.

A flow process chart is a useful tool for businesses, as it can provide a visual of the actions that are taken throughout the course of a process. If the process seems overly complicated, this chart will help identify weak points where it can be clarified or improved. A flow process chart is also useful for making decisions. It can provide easy-to-read instructions for following the correct procedure in a variety of situations.

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