How to Make a Flowchart

Flowcharts help people visualize a process.
Flowcharts help people visualize a process. (Image: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Making a flowchart is the easiest way to illustrate a process. Flowcharting allows you to break down any process into individual jobs, tasks or activities and to display them in a way that shows the logical relationships between them. You can create a flowchart either by hand or with the assistance of a computer program designed to create flowcharts. Sometimes, it is useful to try both methods.

Things You'll Need

  • Large drafting paper
  • Sticky notes
  • Markers
  • Computer flowcharting or drawing software

Determine the process you are charting. Conduct a brainstorming session and identify the name of the process, the functions, people or departments involved in the process and the steps as you know them.

List the functions, departments or people involved down the left side of a large sheet of drafting paper. Write each of the steps on a sticky or Post-it note. For steps that show a decision point -- a step in the process that asks a question usually requiring a yes or no answer -- angle the notes in the shape of a diamond and write the question on them. The response will determine the direction the next steps in the flow charts take.

Place the notes on the paper to the right of the list of functions, people or departments. Move them around so they are in the correct order, and connect them with lines and arrows showing the direction of the flow. Make sure the process flows forward, without backtracking.

Review the chart for possible disconnects -- areas where the steps do not work or where the process needs improvement or reworking to avoid backtracking. You can improve the process by changing, adding or subtracting steps to make the process flow more smoothly.

Use a computer drawing program or a specific flowcharting program to create the steps, lines and arrows that match your hand-drawn flowchart. Type the steps and decision questions into the various shapes for flowcharting steps.

Tips & Warnings

  • Creating the chart on paper with post-it notes first is the best way to brainstorm the entire process before trying to put it into the computer.

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