Flowcharting A flowchart is a planning tool that uses graphics or symbols to illustrate the steps of a particular process. In a business organization flowcharting, also known as logic or flow diagramming, is an invaluable tool for understanding the inner workings of, and relation- ships between, business processes. (Harrington, 86) There are four basic flowcharts, each having a specific function and they include: block diagrams, ANSI standard flowchart, functional flowchart, and geographical flowchart. Understanding and applying flowcharts normally will improve the quality of a company’s product or service. The most common type of flowchart is a block diagram, also known as a block flow diagram. Block diagrams provide a quick overview of a process, not a detailed analysis. Normally they are prepared first to document the magnitude of the process; then another type of flowchart is used to analyze the process in detail. (Harrington, 92) Block diagrams use elongated circles to depict the beginning and the end of a flowchart, and all activities in between are represented by rectangles with lines and arrows connecting each activity.

Of the four basic flowcharts, the block diagram is the easiest to understand and use. As previously stated, a block diagram is a flowchart that is used as a starting point. Applying the ANSI standard flowchart makes a perfect follow-up flowchart that provides greater detail using additional symbols. A rectangle is used to indicate a change of operation. A diamond is used to indicate that a decision is to be made.

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The movement or transportation of property is indicated by a fat arrow while a slim arrow denotes the 1 movement from one process to another. An elongated circle depicts the beginning and the end of a process. The amount of detail involved with the ANSI standard flowchart accurately depicts the sequence of events of a specific business process. Another type of flowchart is a functional flowchart. A functional flowchart identifies how vertically oriented functional departments affect a process flowing horizontally across an organization. (Harrington 101) For example, the hiring process might begin with a manager realizing the need for another employee so his request would then be submitted to the controller to evaluate the budget. The controller would then ask the personnel department to conduct interviews to search for an employee to hire.

Using either standard or block flowchart symbols works effectively with a functional flowchart. The last of the four basic flowcharts is a geographical flowchart. Using rectangles and broken lines, geographic flowcharts depict various locations in a specific sequence. For example, when an employee is hired with a company he or she will show up at the lobby, then walk over to payroll to fill out forms, then walk over to the medical department to get insurance information, and then back to the lobby. Each department is represented by a rectangle and the route that he or she takes is represented by a broken line.

Geographic flowcharting is a useful tool for evaluating department layout and paperwork flow, and for analyzing product flow, by identifying excessive travel and storage delays. (Harrington, 108) With the use of basic symbols, flowcharts graphically depict a process or group of pro- cesses in a particular sequence allowing for a better understanding of how a unit functions. 2 Applying a flowchart is a constructive tool for business process improvement. 3 Business.