Flowcharts – Integral Element of Top Basic Quality Tools

“Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable” – William Pollard

Flowcharts are an integral component of the top basic quality tools, and represent innovation and creativity, flexibility and easy adaptation of change. As a graphical representation of a process, and one of basic quality tools, it helps users analyze a series of events / stages of a process. The easy to understand representation in flowcharts, enable the ‘discovery’ of cohesions and harmonies between events and stages of a process. As part of quality tools, flowcharts are also the most commonly used tool for creation of workflow diagrams.

Any process or event, would be a series / string of activities working collectively in order to achieve specified goals, and this ‘series’ would be a set of inputs, branch nodes for decisions, and the consequential output. As one of the basic quality tools, a flowchart helps to visualize the series of events / process, performed either in parallel or chronologically. The visualize representation in a flowchart proves to be a useful aid in any realm, since it helps to break down complex processes, enabling not just ease of understanding but also to assist in enhancing quality by identifying areas that need improvement.

Since flowcharts are one of the basic quality tools, it therefore, becomes a tool for tracking, monitoring and analyzing data, as also a troubleshooting tool for problems / obstacles. As per the handbook of the CQE Academy, 95% of all quality related issues are solvable with the 7 basic quality tools – including flowcharts. Flowcharts are integral to the problem solving realm given that the quintessence is the step by step process of operations, designing and documenting complex programs, and ensuring that users are able to comprehend the process with ease.

The main benefits of flowcharts as one of the basic quality tools are:

  • being able to easily track process flow
  • aiding faster and better decision making
  • Easy to comprehend important steps given that they would be highlighted and emphasized
  • The process would be depicted visually, allowing for better grasp and easy implementation
  • Making analysis easy, enabling improvements, and ensuring better processes in the future

The very purpose of including flowcharts as part of the basic quality tools is to highlight the fact that this tool proves highly beneficial in raising the quality of processes, troubleshooting, and arriving at good decisions. Flowcharts then can also be called decision trees. The first step for creating a flowchart, with the aim of improving quality, is to ascertain the possible steps in a process. It makes sense from a business perspective to put together a team including quality professionals, people from the function where the improved process is required, and leaders from the quality and business realms. With the joint efforts and brainstorming, the team would be able to identify the possible steps in the process, and highlight the ones they believe require enhancement and improvement.

After the identification of the steps, these steps would need to be arranged in an order, so as to reflect decisions within the process. It would be sensible to then use any of the software available to draw the flowchart depicting the process. Using a technology to draw a flowchart is one of the best ways to enhance quality, as changes are easier to make while maintaining a record of all the steps prior to the changes. In addition, creating one of the best basic quality tools, the flowchart, on software, makes the review process simpler – all stakeholders would be privy to the steps and would be able to provide feedback on whether the flowchart created is an accurate representation of the process.

Once each person on the flowchart creation team is satisfied with the quality of the process steps, and the resultant decisions, the next step would be to formalize this quality tool by ensuring proper communication of the same to all. Any training materials should show the flowchart and the flowchart should also be part of any future process improvement projects of either the same project or similar ones. The important thing to remember is that first time flowchart users, must go slow and start with smaller and simpler processes, in order to get practice and gain mastery over flowcharts, one of the basic quality tools. With time, using flowcharts to define the more complex and difficult processes will become easy and enjoyable.

Those who are familiar with flowcharts completely agree with them being included in the basic quality tools. For those who may not have used flowcharts, it would take some practice to familiarize themselves with this tool. Determining bottlenecks and process failures becomes a lot easier with the work process flowcharts. It is important to remain aware of the proper inputs in order to get accurate outputs from this tool. Once a flowchart is ready, it will be simple to identify changes in the process post improvements and create a new flowchart to depict a related process.

As one of the basic quality tools, flowcharts are highly effective in determining the cost of low quality, and in understanding the benefits of optimum quality as well. Experienced users will know that flowcharts are a great tool to identify non-value added activities, enabling their removal not just from the current process, but also for similar / related processes, thereby saving time and effort. Additionally, as one of the basic quality tools, flowcharts help to determine the performance of the process and identify the unusual / or any aberrations in the process during the monitoring stage.

In the preceding paragraphs, it becomes amply clear that not only a flowcharts a graphical representation of process, they are helpful in troubleshooting and identifying the true cost of quality – both high and low. When processes are easily understood, getting project approvals, and teams together becomes simple, the likelihood of projects working seamless is enhanced, and overall each stakeholder would have better control over their own role during the project.

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