Process Charts

There will be situations where the object of an improvement initiative may be an entire process. For those situations you will need a graphical method of describing the process. I prefer graphical approaches that are simple and intuitive and have found the process charts to be exactly that.

A process chart is a graphical picture of a process that is comprised of a number of steps. These steps may be decision points, data collection points, approvals, or report generation. Each of these types of steps is represented by a different icon. The icon stylistically portrays the activity associated with that step, which adds to the intuitiveness of the process chart. Figure 5.5 is an example of a process chart that utilizes the more commonly used icons. It shows a typical order entry process. Note that it has been arranged by customer, sales, credit, and fulfillment. Each of these is called a swim lane and it extends horizontally across the chart. The major units or individuals that interact with the process are each represented by a swim lane. Swim lanes are stacked vertically in

Figure 5.5 A typical process chart for an order entry process.

more or less chronological order. If you move horizontally across a swim lane, you will see all of the actions of that swim lane within the process. Standard flow charting symbols are used in the process chart. The oval represents the beginning and ending activities of the process. The rectangle is a process step. The diamond is a decision point. The page icon is a report. The flow in a process chart is top to bottom and left to right wherever possible.

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