What Is a Workflow Diagram?


A workflow diagram visually represents the movement and transfer of resources, documents, data and tasks through the entire work process for a given product or service. A successfully built flowchart will represent the correct workflow quickly and clearly.

Improving Efficiency and Avoiding Bottlenecks

  • Many work processes can be complicated and complex, so it is important to visually represent how the tasks are completed to improve employee understanding and efficiency. Workflow diagrams clearly state who is responsible for each stage, what documents and resources they need, and the amount of time needed at each stage. Knowing employee roles and resource requirements for production allows management to easily define weaknesses and alleviate bottlenecks. Bottlenecks are any aspects of the workflow that hinder and slow down the overall cycle time of the process.

Increasing Accountability and Communication

  • Visually representing the entire workflow process allows employees to better understand not only their job responsibilities, but also other employees’ roles, which increases accountability. Creating a successful, accurate workflow diagram increases knowledge in the workplace because of the required research and data compilation. Communication also improves when employees have a better understanding of the workflow process.

Using Shapes to Show Activity

  • Workflow diagrams use specific shapes that correspond to different types of activities. An oval shows where the workflow begins and ends. Rectangles represent a process activity, task, or analysis. Diamonds signify a decision-making process, usually resulting in two possible workflow directions. If the answer to a decision is yes, the workflow continues on the intended route, but if the answer is no, the workflow may have to take another route to solve the problem. A diagram with a lot of diamond shapes may harder to follow visually. Circles represent connectors from one activity to another.

Implementing Workflow Diagrams

  • Although designing the workflow diagram can be an extensive and time-consuming process, its implementation may be more difficult. Managers cannot simply post a diagram in the workplace and expect employees to deliver to it without any guidance. Most diagrams need to be coupled with a workflow improvement theory such as lean manufacturing, Six Sigma or total quality management. (See Reference 1)

Alternatives to Workflow Diagrams

  • Some businesses use alternatives to workflow diagrams such as process, business planning and flow control. A process, or process map, is a very similar concept to workflow and workflow diagrams. A work process is more specific than workflow, focusing more on inputs and outputs than the transfer of data, documents and task responsibilities. Business planning focuses more on long-term goals rather than improving the current workflow. Managers interested in flow control specifically look to improve inventory control.

Related Searches


  • Photo Credit Anatoliy Babiy/iStock/Getty Images
Promoted By Zergnet


You May Also Like

  • What Is an SAP Workflow?

    SAP is an Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) software system. ERP systems are software and hardware systems that help businesses manage and control...

  • How to Create a Workflow on a Mac

    Apple's Automator app can take the drudgery out of operations you do on a routine basis, like creating thumbnails from photos, reformatting...

  • How to Create a Customer Order Process Workflow Diagram

    Stay in control of your customers' orders with a Customer Order Process Workflow Diagram. This diagram tracks the steps between the time...

  • How to Track Workflow in a Paperless Office

    A paperless office may help the environment, but it can create process headaches if an adequate workflow system isn’t put in place....

  • How to Draw a Workflow Diagram

    A workflow diagram, also known as a flowchart, visually shows the steps in a process from start to finish. It includes starting...

  • How to Diagram a Process Flow

    Occasionally there are times when being able to visualize how something is done makes it easier to understand. Process flowcharts identify each...

  • Process Flow in Visio

    Process flow diagrams in Microsoft Visio can be the initiating point for documenting and providing an overview of a complete process flow....

  • What are the Advantages of Workflow Diagrams?

    On a macro level, workflow diagrams can act like a blueprint--providing a broad scope of the project. Diagrams like the "swim lane"...

  • How Do I Create a Workflow Chart?

    A workflow chart is a diagram that demonstrates all of the major steps of a process or business unit. Workflow charts can...

Related Searches

Check It Out

Are You Really Getting A Deal From Discount Stores?

Is DIY in your DNA? Become part of our maker community.
Submit Your Work!