Keeping records and documenting work processes is incredibly important, not just for the flow of business, but to help ensure errors aren’t made, things stay on track, and each department is on the same page. Knowing that it’s important to document work processes may not come as a surprise but finding a way to do so that is efficient, streamlined, and doesn’t add extra work to an employee’s day can be tricky, and frankly a bit of a mystery.
If you have never introduced flow charts to your office, now is the time to consider it. When used properly, you’ll find this is an excellent way to document work processes and there’s a good chance you’ll never go back. Here are some useful tips and advice on how you can best use a flow chart for documentation purposes.
Templates Take the Guesswork Out of the Process
One of the best ways to introduce your staff to flowcharts is to make use of existing templates, which means all the work has been done for them. If you can find a flow chart that is already laid out in a manner that works for their needs, all they need to do is just plug in the relevant information. It couldn’t be simpler or faster than that. Ideally, the templates should offer the option to customize them, just so you can tweak them to your liking.
What’s great about pre-existing templates is that you then are introduced to the different types of flow charts. All too often people assume they look the same, but different layouts are used for different purposes. For example, maybe you need a timeline-styled flowchart or perhaps more of a solution tree.
Use a Dedicated Flowchart for Each Step
Sometimes, a process may be many steps and it’s not ideal to have it all in one chart. In that case, you can break things down quite a bit, creating a flowchart for each step of the process. Because it is all being documented, it will act as a blueprint and timeline, which may be useful if you need to look back on it. For companies that need tasks and projects to be narrowed down and broken down, this is an excellent way to approach flow charts.
Make Sure All Employees Involved Have Access
Another great thing about a digital flow chart is the fact that you can give access to all the employees who need it. Each person, regardless of department, can then check the flow chart and stay on the same page. It can help to answer any questions or confusion that may exist. The term agile planning comes into play here, as it allows for this to happen seamlessly.
Everything Needs to Be Added to the Chart – No Matter How Big or Small
In terms of logistics, make sure employees understand that everything about the process, no matter how big or small, needs to be added to the flow chart. This is the only way to ensure that nothing is missed. If information, tasks, and projects are left out of the chart, then the process is no longer being documented accurately.
Give Employees the Proper Training
Of course, because people are going to be using software and tools that are likely new to them, you want to ensure they have the proper training. Without this, they may become frustrated and make mistakes. They may also not be inclined to use the flow charts or use them improperly. Each of these issues will affect how useful the flow charts are. Should you make any changes with the software you’re using or the flow chart layout, employees will need to be briefed and potentially re-trained.
Know When to Use a Flow Chart
The final tip is to know when it makes sense to use a flow chart. The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle of all the time, and never. Some tasks and projects lead themselves to the natural use of a flow chart. These can include:
- When there is a decision to be made since you can use the flow chart to outline all the pros and cons
- When a new project is beginning, all steps including a timeline can be laid out
- When you are introducing a new process to the workplace, the steps can be laid out for employees to follow
There are more instances than just these three, but this is a good place to start.
Flow Charts Can Transform How You Approach Processes
While using a flow chart may seem like a simple concept, in reality, it can have a profound effect on how employees approach tasks, projects, and processes. Once you start to use them and people become more familiar with their capabilities, there will be no going back.