Flowchart

A flowchart is used to graphically represent a process through the use of specific symbols to denote different types of steps or activities. Flowcharts can represent anything from simple step-by-step instructions to complex, decision-dependent, cross-functional workflows or algorithms. There are a variety of different notations for flowcharts, each tailored to a particular domain.

Why:

  • To allow a team to identify the actual flow or sequence of events in a business process;
  • To help visualize a process and identify potential bottlenecks and less-obvious features;
  • To compare and contrast actual vs. ideal flow of a process to identify improvement opportunities;
  • As a process discovery tool;
  • To visually communicate an idea or process.

How:

  • Clearly define where the process starts (input) and ends (final output);
  • Team members should agree to the level of detail they must show on the flowchart to clearly understand the process and identify problem areas;
  • Determine steps in the process;
  • Sequence the steps;
  • Draw the flowchart using the appropriate symbols;
  • Review for completeness.

Click here for example symbols and here for an example flowchart.

Examples: 

The Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office uses the flowchart tool to define the process for creating the derived dealer data set utilized by end users.  The flowchart depicts database locations and activities assigned to the various organizations involved in the production process. 

The Alaska Regional Office uses flowcharts extensively in its implementation and maintenance of the Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) program. The tool has been used to document the IFQ transfer process in order to provide visibility into the process for quality control and documentation. They were able to identify points in the process where additional policy decisions were necessary to make the transfer process more consistent and better suited to meeting the needs of their constituents. In addition, flowcharts were used to model the existing complicated IFQ annual process. The model is used as an audit tool which helps ensure that each year's allocation is made equitably.

Subject Ambassadors:

Bob Ryznar - Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission: rryznar@psmfc.org

Tony Conigliari - Greater Atlantic Region Fisheries Office: anthony.conigliari@noaa.gov