Many flowcharting methodologies are available, for example:
- Process Flowcharts
- Functional Flowcharts (a.k.a Swim Lanes)
- Top-Down Flowcharts
- Brown-Paper Flows
- SIPOC Diagrams
- Value Stream Maps
Process Flowcharts are perhaps the most commonly used flowcharting
method. They map workflows by showing the order that activities and
decisions occur. Directional arrows indicate the flow paths of the
workflow thereby displaying the sequence of steps or activities of
Pros of Process Flowcharts: It is the easiest format to map the full
details of the workflow and most useful when analyzing a specific
function or activity that is part of the workflow.
Cons of Process Flowcharts: They are arguably the most difficult
format to read and comprehend as the flowchart string can ramble on
Functional Flowcharts use a matrix format to identify the function
(or person) involved in each step of the flow.
Functional Flowcharts are also known as Deployment Flowcharts or as
Swim Lanes as workflows are organized by function into separate
Pros of Functional Flowcharts: Identifies dependencies between
Cons of Functional Flowcharts: Adding adequate detail to fully
explore the workflow can be tedious due to the amount of paper or
screen space that functional flows require.
Top-Down Flowcharts organize the workflow by major step. The
detailed activities (or sub-steps) are flowcharted under the major
If the process flow contains many sub-steps, the flowchart can
easily be divided into manageable pieces. Each major step can be
flowcharted independently of the other major steps. The top-level
major steps provide perspective of how the major step and its
associated sub-steps fit into the overall workflow.
Pros of Top-Down Flowcharts: Easy to follow as the major steps
across the top represent distinct steps in the overall flow.
Cons of Top-Down Flowcharts: Not easy to indicate activities done in
series and the level of detail required to highlight rework loops is
not always included.
A Brown-Paper Flow is constructed by mounting all artifacts (forms,
checklist, computer screens, …) associated with a process on a
length of brown Kraft paper.
This technique is especially useful for transactional processes as
it will point out what paperwork is redundant and where mistakes in
the paperwork might be made.
Pros of Brown-Paper Flows: Brown-Paper Flows can be visual catalysts
for improvement. Once the flow is made visible, ideas to simplify
the process, put an end to rework loops and reduce hand-offs may
"leap" off of the paper. Solutions for redundant or convoluted flow
paths may become evident, process steps that once had good reasons
to exist but have long since outlived their usefulness may be
revealed and tasks that are done in series that would be more
effective if done in parallel may become obvious.
Cons of Brown-Paper Flows: Are most effective using actual artifacts
and physically placing them onto the brown paper and therefore are
best done in person.
With a SIPOC Diagram, the bounds and elements of a process are
defined in terms of five components. Those components are: the
Suppliers, Inputs to the process, the Process itself, the Output of
the process, and the Customers of that process, hence the acronym
Pros of a SIPOC Diagram: Helps focus the process analysis on
customers and their requirements and provides a useful starting
point for Value Stream Maps.
Cons of a SIPOC Diagram: Does not map workflows at a detailed level.
Value Stream Maps
A value stream is another term for a process that has inputs,
performs work on those inputs, and generates an output that has
added-value. The basic premise of a value stream is that value is
added as goods or services stream through the process.
Unfortunately, for most value streams, some actions, tasks and
activities do not add-value (at least from the customer's
A Current State Map establishes a baseline "warts" and all. Current
State Maps help everyone understand how the value stream currently
A Future State Map envisions the "to-be" condition where the plan is
to ensure that all workflow elements add-value.
Pros of Value Stream Maps: Provides a comprehensive look at the
process in terms of inputs and outputs.
Cons of Value Stream Maps: Can be time consuming to do.