What is a Flowchart? Process Flow Diagrams and Maps


Also known as: process flowchart, process flowchart 

Variations: macro flowchart, top-down flowchart, detailed flowchart (also known as process map, micro map, service map, or symbolic flowchart), flowchart deployment (also known as down-across or cross-flowchart), multi-level flowchart.

A flowchart is a sequential order image of the separate steps of a process. It is a generic instrument that can be tailored for a broad range of reasons and can be used to define different procedures, such as a production method, an administrative or service method, or a project plan. It is one of the seven basic quality tools and a common process analysis tool. 

Elements that can be included in a flowchart are a sequence of actions, materials or services that enter or leave the process (inputs and outputs), decisions that need to be made, people involved, time involved in each step and/or measurements of the process.


  • To develop understanding of how a process is done 
  • To study a process for improvement 
  • To communicate to others how a process is done 
  • When better communication is needed between people involved with the same process 
  • To document a process 
  • When planning a project


Required materials: sticky notes or cards, a big sheet of paper flipchart or newsprint, and writing pins.
  1. Defines the diagrammable method. Write the headline on top of the ground of the job.
  2. Discuss and determine your system limits: where or when does the method begin? Where or when is this going to end? Discuss the level of detail that should be included in the diagram and decide.
  3. Brainstorm the ongoing activities. Write each on a sticky note or card.
  4. Arrange the proper sequence of activities.
  5. Draw buttons to demonstrate the system flow when all operations are included and everyone agrees that the sequence is right.
  6. Review the flowchart with other system participants (employees, managers, vendors, clients) to see if they agree to correctly draw the method.


  • Do not care about writing the "correct way" flowchart. Ultimately, the correct way is to help those concerned comprehend the method.
  • Identify and cover all important individuals engaged in the system in the flowcharting method. This involves vendors, clients and managers. Involve them in the real flowcharting courses by interviewing them before the meetings and/or by displaying them the flowchart between job meetings and receiving feedback.
  • Do not assign the flowchart to a "technical expert." It should be done by people who actually do the process.


1. High-Level Flowchart for an Order-Filling Process

2. Detailed Flowchart


rectangle - flowchart process stepOne step in the process. The step is written inside the box. Usually, only one arrow goes out of the box.

arrow - flowchart flow direction Direction of flow from one step or decision to another.

diamond - flowchart decision step Decision based on a question. The question is written in the diamond. More than one arrow goes out of the diamond, each one showing the direction the process takes for a given answer to the question. (Often the answers are "yes" and "no.")

semi-circle - flowchart delay or waitDelay or wait

circle - flowchart link to another page or flowchartLink to another page or another flowchart. The same symbol on the other page indicates that the flow continues there.

paralellogram - flowchart input or output Input or output

flowchart document symbolDocument

rounded rectangle or oval - flowchart start and end pointsAlternate symbols for start and end points

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