So, you’ve decided to use a flowchart to map out complex processes in the workplace. It’s a great decision as it can make the individual steps much clearer and the entire process precise. But with that said, it’s important to be aware of common pitfalls that can end up throwing you off-track. If you want to get the most out of flowcharting complex processes, these are three common pitfalls you’ll want to avoid.

Make Sure the Direction Makes Sense

One of the most common mistakes people make when flowcharting sounds simple enough to avoid, but it’s easy enough to fall victim to. Because a complex flowchart has so much content and connections, if you’re not careful, you can suddenly find it not making much sense. Remember, there needs to be direction to the flowchart, so look carefully at each step/process that is added and how it connects with the processes before and after.

The whole point of a complex process flowchart is to make things simpler to follow. A great rule to remember is to use a consistent branch direction, always moving forward rather than tracking backwards.

Not Using Software to Create Flowcharts

If you’re still attempting to put together complex flowcharts the old-fashioned way – with a pen and paper – it’s time to embrace technology. Today there is software that makes fast and simple work of complex flow charts, providing you with an array of special features and personalization options. Using software isn’t just a more high-tech option, it’s also a time-saver and makes sharing the content a breeze.

Be Specific About How Detailed the Flow Chart Will Be

Another pitfall is that you get caught up in the details. Just how much detail should be on a flowchart? There is no wrong or right answer, but again, it’s really about simplicity. You don’t want to condense the information so much that it no longer makes sense or is missing key details, but if you’re adding too much text, the flowchart becomes convoluted. Flow charts should be about the big picture, not necessarily the small details.

It’s important to think through scope and detail before tackling the flowchart so you have a defined goal in mind.

A few questions to ask yourself when defining the scope and detail include:

  1. What is the purpose of the flowchart? A new project or process are common purposes.
  2. Who is the flowchart meant for – which departments?
  3. What are the boundaries?
  4. What are the objectives?
  5. What decisions/steps will be displayed in the flowchart?
  6. Will you be using standardized symbols to illustrate steps and processes?

If things get too complex, it may be prudent to create more than one flowchart. This can ensure the scope and detail are adhered to.

In business, pitfalls are to be expected. Sometimes they are relatively minor and other times they can feel extremely cumbersome with far-reaching effects. The best advice as a business owner or even manager is to be prepared for whatever may be thrown your way. Knowing the pitfalls to watch for when creating a flowchart for complex processes means you’ll be that much more successful in your task.