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Flowchart: Practical variations

The Quality Toolbook > Flowchart > Practical variations

When to use it | How to understand it | Example | How to do it | Practical variations


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Practical variations

  • Write the actions on 3" x 5" cards or adhesive memo notes, and place them in order. This makes rearrangement easier when actions become cramped or require revision. Add arrows when the layout is stabilized.
  • Where the process involves multiple people or groups, use a Deployment Flowchart, which has one column for each group or person, separated by vertical dotted lines as in the illustration. Order the columns so that people who communicate are adjacent and the overall flow is still left to right.
  • This is particularly useful for process improvement as problems often lie in the communications boundary between individual people. It can, however, only be used for relatively simple Flowcharts, as the width available for each person is severely limited.



Fig. 1. Deployment Flowchart

  • Use horizontal dotted lines to separate distinct stages in the process, such as days or project phases.

  • Annotate Flowcharts with salient notes. These can use the annotation symbol from Table 19.2 or may be simple free-form text. The general rule to apply when adding such commentary is that it should add to the understanding of the process without adding clutter.
    Annotations may be visually differentiated, for example by using a different typeface or italics.Use a more comprehensive symbol set, either to highlight critical tasks or as appropriate to the industry or application. Additional common symbols (originating from computer programming) are shown in Table 1 below.

  • Show possible problems on each box with a mini-Cause-Effect Diagram on any number of boxes and arrows. This is illustrated in the section on Practical Variations.
  • Show the inputs and outputs to the overall process either by annotation or by using special boxes (as in Table 1).


    Table 1. Extended flowchart symbols


    Symbol Name Meaning
      Input/Output Action to get input to, or to deliver output from, process.
      Manual operation Manual action within an otherwise automated process.
      Annotation Comment on actions within the Flowchart.
      Document Action or presence of document.
      Magnetic disk Action or presence of computer disk.
      Magnetic tape Action or presence of computer tape.
      Visual display Display on a computer screen.



  • Show the inputs and outputs to the overall process either by annotation or by using special boxes (as in Table 19.2).
    This can be extended to show the internal inputs and outputs, which may appear on each action box. A way of doing this is shown in Fig. 2.



    Fig. 2. Showing inputs and outputs



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