What Is a Flow Chart?

1165 words 5 pages
By Nicholas Hebb
Flow Chart Defined
A flow chart is a graphical or symbolic representation of a process. Each step in the process is represented by a different symbol and contains a short description of the process step. The flow chart symbols are linked together with arrows showing the process flow direction.
Common Flowchart Symbols
Different flow chart symbols have different meanings. The most common flow chart symbols are: * Terminator: An oval flow chart shape indicating the start or end of the process. * Process: A rectangular flow chart shape indicating a normal process flow step. * Decision: A diamond flow chart shape indication a branch in the process flow. * Connector: A small, labeled, circular flow chart shape used
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All process improvements require change, and most changes involve risk, require work, cost money, or instill some level of emotional uncertainty and fear. You can mitigate each of these by creating flow charts of any proposed operational changes. Each flow chart can be a "what-if" that helps the involved players more easily see the risks involved. Personally, I do before and after flow charts on all significant process changes.
Other Names for “Flow Chart”
Unfortunately, the world of flowcharting hasn't come to a unanimous agreement on what to call flow charts. Common alternate names include: flowchart, process flow chart, process map, process chart, process model, process flow diagram, or just flow diagram. Quite frankly, all the variations get a little annoying. I prefer "flowchart" but use "flow chart" and other terms extensively because that's what people commonly search for online.
A big annoyance is terms that have different meanings based on context. For instance, the term "Process Map" often refers to flow charts that assign attribute data - inputs and outputs - to each process step. But "Process map" is also used to refer to flow charts that map the interrelationships between top level procedures in an ISO 9000 system. And, I have a book about "Process Mapping" that contains nothing but traditional flow charts.
Flow Diagram is often synonymous with Data Flow Diagram - a


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