Challenges in Designing a Good Process Flowchart

“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing” – W Edwards Deming

The quote clearly illustrates why it would be necessary to overcome the challenges of designing a good process flowchart. The quintessence of a process flowchart is to display sequentially the steps / stages of even the most complex process. The purpose of the graphic is about explaining the working of a process, depending on the expected outcome of the project. With people not finding time and or not being good at expressing in the written word, a process flowchart is a great way to illustrate a process that may be hard to describe in words. Of course, unless a person / persons creating the process flowchart understand the process in totality, creating the graphic could prove to be a challenge. A good process flowchart is one that would be successful if those ‘reading’ it are able to identify repetitions, holdups, or any other potential issues, which when removed will enhance the efficiency and efficacy of the operations of the process.

Objectives and Challenges of a Process Flowchart:

The most important thing to consider is whether the project will be enhanced by the creation of a flowchart. The challenge is refraining from creating a flowchart for the sake of it. Determining whether the actual process is adequately complex to actually use a flowchart can be a significant challenge for those not well-versed with process flowcharts. Usually a written description suffices but it would take expertise and experience to write a powerful and compelling description.

Identifying stakeholders from various teams for the project, getting approval for their involvement, and gaining the buy-in from a senior / person in authority to guide the project are all herculean tasks. Without the right team and a mentor, making headway in a project, including designing a good process flowchart would definitely pose major challenges.

Agreeing to prepare a process flowchart is not sufficient – it could be challenging to understand how it may be used so as to gain maximum advantage. It may be possible to use two different process flowcharts – one to focus on inefficiency and obsolete steps and another to highlight the actual process in use at the time in the company. Making a thorough and meticulous analysis of both these process flowcharts could prove to be a challenge, but successfully doing so could actually bring better results.

A process flowchart must have certain confines / limits / boundaries – defining these ‘spaces’ could prove to be a major challenge but it is extremely vital to establish them. The start and end points, conditions under which these points may be moved to expand or contract the process, and establishing the sequence of activities are all necessary, even if they prove challenging to define and put in place. The challenge would be greater and harder in process flowcharts that seek to capture highly complex processes, and it may be simpler to create multiple smaller flowcharts to capture various stages of complicated processes. 

Ensuring the active participation of all those involved could be another challenge when creating process flowcharts of unusually tough processes, and it would be necessary to conduct smaller breakout sessions to gain clear understanding for all those who may be a part of the project. While holding a brainstorming session maybe easy, the challenge would be in gaining agreement on all the activities and steps to be included in the process flowchart, and it may be necessary to hold several such sessions before everyone is in agreement. Without complete buy-in both processes and flowchart would be incomplete or ineffective. While going through each activity, it would make sense to document the steps being identified, while also noting the requirements of those who would need and use the completed process flowchart. It may seem bothersome to note down every point discussed and agreed, but leaving points to memory could prove disastrous and add to the challenges of designing a good process flowchart.

Determining the objective / objectives of the process at the start of creating the process flowchart is necessary. This ensures that the flowchart would highlight the steps of the process in the order that would lead to the objective of the entire project. Those process steps that would reoccur must be differentiated to those that would happen in a sequence with those that would occur parallel. Failing to determine clear goals / objectives can create some serious challenges both in the creation of the flowchart and in the overall accomplishment of the project at hand. Yes, establishing an achievable yet significant objective would be a challenge too, but this is what would provide clear direction to the project and serve as a guiding factor for those involved.

For those conversant with flowcharts, the use of various symbols would be easy to comprehend. However, without an understanding of the various symbols, preparing a process flowchart or any kind of flowchart could prove immensely challenging. It is also critical to use the symbols accurately in order to depict the right steps in a flowchart. Using lines and arrows in the correct manner to connect these symbols and specify the direction of the process flowchart could also prove challenging to first time or new users of the powerful process flowchart.

Another challenge that the process flowchart creator would face is gaining adequate and effective feedback regarding its thoroughness and efficacy. Process owners and users must invest time and effort to ‘read’ the created flowchart carefully in order to point out any obsolete steps, or issues, and make time to edit the flowchart to reflect the changes. It may be challenging to repeatedly invest time and effort, but meticulous planning is critical to an effective process flowchart and successful completion of a project.

The last challenge before finalizing the process flowchart would be for all stakeholders to meet and go through each step of the process in order to determine that these actually belong in the flowchart. In addition, to revising the flowchart, it would be a good idea to test the process too before finalizing. A good process flowchart would also enlist which activities would be performed within the company and which of them would be handed over to an outsourced party or third party worker. Everyone within the project must know exactly where and how they must contribute in order to make the project a success – this would lessen the edge of the inevitable challenges of the process and the project.

Another significant challenge is clearly determining the potential risks to the process, which in turn could have some serious financial and operational repercussions. The minutest mistake could prove costly, and lead to the failure of the entire project. Preparing a good process flowchart may not be an easy task, and stakeholders must remain aware of the possible downfalls and obstacles in preparing it.

When all stakeholders are convinced that they have arrived at a good process flowchart, it would make sense to finalize and distribute to all those involved with the project in any manner. A summary of the process and details of the project must accompany the process flowchart, in order for all those involved to have a complete understanding of the process and project.

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