Improving Communication within Teams using Flowcharts

“The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate” – Joseph Priestley

We completely concur with the thought expressed in the quote above, which is why using a simple yet visual tool to improve communication within teams seems like a great idea. Flowcharts – visual diagrams that map out steps for any process or project – are one such tool. These visually explicit diagrams provide a step-by-step description of any process, depict the relationship between the steps, and so in effect would bring clarity of expectations by communicating them to members of a team. Communication is the most vital and critical to success element for teams, projects, and smooth workflows, and yet it also poses one of the biggest challenges within teams. In order to simplify communication within teams, regularly and especially to ensure project success, using flowcharts is a good business decision. While some may argue that creating accurate and well-defined flowcharts requires a lot of effort, the fact is that the myriad benefits make this an exercise worthy of the required time and effort.

Any communication, including communication within teams, should be consistent and robust. There is no doubt that there is a need for communicating through both written and verbal means, and depending on the quality of the communication a project and day to day interactions can either be successful or fail miserably. Using flowcharts, leaders and members of a team can have a common and sound understanding of what is required from them by way of communication. Leaders can use this tool to resolve conflicts, dismantle any weak links in the communication within teams, analyze results, and monitor ongoing progress. The visual depiction makes it easier for users to revise project schedules and quickly convey the changes to ensure uninterrupted communication within teams working on the project.

One of the main factors of communication is feedback, which entails accurate and effective listening, speaking with the aim of conveying, and ensuring that miscommunication are kept to the minimum. Since effective communication within teams serves as the backbone and cementing force for the success of business operations, it becomes imperative that communication remains consistent, clear, and easy to follow. Using flowcharts to convey ideas, project updates, daily workflows, or even possible roadblocks to workflows ensures that communication within teams remains uninterrupted. This in turn helps teams and an organization to achieve pre-determined goals, despite several obstacles.   

It is a well-known fact that the common thread between some of the most successful professionals is their ability to communicate effectively and on point. For them communication is an art form. However, not everyone can be an excellent communicator, which is why tools such as flowcharts prove extremely useful in keeping a smooth of communication within teams, and an organization as a whole. Flowchart diagrams can be used as a working document for communication within teams, ensuring that complex reports and documentation do not inhibit the smooth working and effective communication. Flowcharts can be easily updated to reflect work reassignment, persons responsible for activities, changes in timings and schedules, proactive solutions to possible problems, and even an escalation matrix. In order to ensure that work is completed on time, and there is no breakdown in the communication within teams, a flowchart depicting upcoming deadlines for a project can prove to be highly effective.

As mentioned, not everyone within a team would be good at everything, and hence using flowcharts to visualize the complex process of project management helps to elevate and keep a consistent flow of communication within teams. Using a flowchart in a particularly large project for example, which may have outside resources involved, would help demonstrate the urgency of deadlines, the efforts at coordination, and to convey how each person / unit’s effort would play a part in the timely completion of a project. A flowchart helps to clearly convey a sense of importance and necessity, which a written text may not be able to achieve.  

Leaders, managers, and team supervisors can use flowcharts to stress the importance of and the difficulty level of managing a project. While other members within a project team may not understand the complexity of managing a project, a flowchart ensures that all the issues and problems of managing a project remain visible and are communicated in an unambiguous manner. Using an effective tool such as a flowchart, those leading / managing projects would have a much better chance of eliciting cooperation, teamwork, and strengthening communication within teams both in the organization and outside.

Any project or even day to day workflow management, require direct communication within teams, and using flowcharts can prove to be an effective means to overcome schedule divergence, especially with regard to an increase in workload, absence of key personnel, and several other factors that could potentially disrupt smooth workflow. When communication within teams is smooth and unambiguous, it leads to enhanced productivity, cohesiveness, and a rise of confidence levels in those working on projects and assignments.  

Another reason why flowcharts elevate communication within teams is that they clearly and visually highlight working and reporting relations, allowing personnel to know how their work would impact the output of another person in the team. A flowchart diagram, when made well, will provide the minutest details of a project, while also showing the overview of the project / workflow, ensuring that nothing is overlooked. With key tasks, personnel responsible, and the steps required for each task to be completed, a flowchart provides a ready to use and refer one page document. The great part about using flowcharts is that after putting down on paper, they can be replicated in the computer system, for easy accessibility and a provision to update as and when required. Flowcharts then become the easier versions of complex project steps, which anyone can follow, and with the possibility of rearranging steps and responsibilities with ease.  

The versatility and flexibility of flowcharts proves to be crucial for encouraging and sustaining productivity and communication within teams. Large multinational companies have offices around the globe, and have personnel from different regions, countries, and ethnicities working on cross-functional and regional projects. Using single language documentation could prove to be a hindrance, and could break communication within teams. Flowcharts however, are easier and faster to convert into a multi-lingual document, ensuring that each person on the team understands the project in the same way, and remains aware of the roles, responsibilities, timelines, escalation matrix, and their counterparts in another location of their company.

It is apparent that flowchart diagrams are a highly useful tool, which can convey anything with ease, and the symbols therein can be easily translated to a form that can be comprehended quickly by members of a team / users. The fact is that the socio-cultural background, attitude, skills, and levels of knowledge of each person would vary, and it is important to ensure compatibility of all these factors, else communication within teams will not only be difficult but impossible. Without effective and consistent communication, meeting individual, team and company goals would not be possible, which in turn would result in unhappy customers leading to a disastrous drop in reputation and profitability. It would make good business sense to incorporate flowcharts not just to encourage communication within teams, but also in other realms of the company.

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