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Research Division

Family Medicine

QI Tool - Flow Charting

What is a Flowchart?

A flowchart is a planning and analysis tool. It is a graphic of the steps in a work process.

When should a flowchart be used?

A flowchart should be used when a team needs to do one or more of the following...

  • See how a whole process works
  • Identify the critical points, bottlenecks, or problem areas in a process
  • See how the different steps in the process are related
  • Identify the "ideal" flow of a process from start to finish
  • Design a new work process

How should a flowchart be constructed?

Follow these basic steps in completing a flow chart...

  1. Agree on the work process needing the flowchart.
  2. Agree on the beginning and ending point of the work process. This helps to keep the team focused.
  3. Brainstorm the major steps in the work process. Do not worry about the sequence at this point.
  4. Put the major steps in the proper sequence. As this is done, the team may begin to add minor points.

After all steps have been identified and sequenced,

  1. Assign the appropriate symbols to each step. (See below)
  2. Connect the steps with arrows to show the flow of the process.
  3. Test the flowchart to make sure all the necessary steps have been included.
  4. Finalize the flowchart.

Flowchart Symbols

Three types of flowcharts:

  • A process flowchart is the most familiar type. The process flowchart moves through the process from start to finish. It is most useful when analyzing a specific function or activity where there is no need to identify customers and/or suppliers.
  • A deployment flowchart is useful when analyzing a process that involves more than one department or several individuals.
    • When a process calls for a deployment flowchart, it may first be helpful to construct a process flowchart with only the major steps and then modify it by assigning the appropriate departments or individuals to each step.
  • The top-down flowchart starts with the major steps drawn horizontally. The detail is provided in numbered subtasks under each major task. The top-down flowchart does not show decision points reworks and so on and therefore is not as detail as the process or deployment flowchart.

Content copied from NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources

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