7 Flow Chart Template Samples
Flow charts are an organizational tool that virtually every business uses today. They can range from a simple “org chart” that shows employees’ job titles and relationships within the organizational structure to complex diagrams tracking cause-effect relationships. Because flow chart templates are produced by most major software manufacturers – for example, Microsoft and Apple – there is a huge number of flow chart template styles available today. Why use a flow chart template?
First, it provides structure for specific types of planning-oriented tasks. Second, it takes some of the heavy-lifting out of thinking through a project or problem.
Using templates is simply how most jobs get done. Few workers want to take the time and burn up the mental energy required to create an original flow chart design. When in a hurry, a few text boxes from MS Word might do, but for a professional presentation using a flow chart template is a must. In addition to providing a structure, templates add panache and a high-quality look to any presentation.
What Is a Flow Chart?
Simply put, a flow chart attempts to map processes. The map can be descriptive (for example, a set of boxes showing the six steps for dealing with customer service complaints) or it can be explanatory (such as an algorithm that details how to give a brief intervention on quitting smoking).
An explanatory flow chart will attempt to show how one process affects another. Another example of an explanatory flow chart would be an automotive wiring diagram that shows how yellow wires and black wires are used in the operation of a headlight.
Flow charts attempt to replicate both spatial (proximity) and temporal (time) relationships in the simplest way possible. They will never go out of style and fortunately, there are so many flow chart templates to choose from, this article is only a start.
Why Use a Flow Chart?
Never underestimate how little someone may know about a given topic. A flow chart is a way of explaining by showing, which helps both introduce a new concept (or series of activities) to an inexperienced person and drill down to provide more details to an experienced person. Flow charts are the go-to tool in professional situations; they help communicate complex ideas in a way that educates and informs. Flow charts also provide maps that can be referred to repeatedly or refined as new information is discovered. Flow chart templates help workers think through and solve problems.
Complex systems can be difficult to understand if the person approaching the system lacks knowledge or experience, or if the level of complexity is such that no amount of knowledge or experience is sufficient. A flow chart template provides the first step for breaking down too much information into small, digestible bits. Since templates provide visual structure, the user can often list a few general process steps (say, five) and compare those with successive levels of detail (say, three sub-steps for each of the five steps).
Having all played the game “telephone” as children, it’s obvious how difficult communicating clearly can be. A flow chart template that is filled in with the right amount of detail can facilitate communication between workers with different experience or knowledge levels. For a worker who is attempting to understand a whole business or even a large department, using a template can provide boxes to fill in as interviews and observations (of the business, or the department) are completed.
Flow chart templates are used to create multiple scenarios and compare possible outcomes. The flow chart design creates maps that are easily comparable because they use the same visual structure. Mapping a process and predicting an outcome help all aspects of business. Flow charts are particularly useful for applying logic to systems where actual outcomes can be predicted fairly accurately.
Providing Objective Data
An excellent and often-used flow chart is the classic Organizational Chart (“Org Chart”) that most businesses develop. An Org Chart provides a snapshot of the company functioning by showing all company employees and their relationships to one another, usually in a hierarchy. A typical Org Chart shows the company leader or leaders, and underneath, the top level, middle management, then support staff.
Ideally, Org Charts show the actual relationships between employees, so an employee who is wondering about who supervises them directly can use the Org Chart as an objective measurement of how the company operates.
Thinking Through Problems
Sometimes the first step in understanding a problem is simply describing it. Because flow charts require the arrangement of different elements and characterizing relationships, they need to include accurate data and ask, “Is this the formal relationship or the functional one?” to be useful. Maps are not the same as the territory, and flow chart templates can reveal the difference between an ideal picture of reality and how things get done.
7 Flow Chart Template Samples
The classic, old-school template includes different shapes to indicate different types of processes. For example, information written inside a diamond always shows decisions. A cylinder always represents a database, and arrows point to the flow of information. Workers commonly use these templates for mechanical processes or technical projects. Flow chart template symbols have been established by consensus over time, and are used in specific business processes which helps professionals in the same field easily read the “shape” language of the flow chart.
These templates lay out information in two dimensions, or on two axes. One axis (say, vertical) contains a list of tasks or processes and on the other axis (horizontal) is a list of departments, units, or individuals. This helps categorize who will do which part of a process and in what order. Similar to a step-by-step chart, this template attempts to show a process, not an outcome.
A flow chart can be a map with no cause-and-effect relationships that describe and document the flow of information. It can show, for example, the relationships between multiple agencies and how multiple departments within agencies communicate with similar departments in other agencies. By using boxes (or circles, or rectangles), the map can show how information flows from one area to another, and back again. This flow chart template is useful in trying to evaluate where flow of information or relationships may need to be altered or improved. This template always shows flow from left to right.
A process is sometimes easier to understand when it is compared to like processes. This type of flow chart shows options for similar processes that may diverge. Several similar processes or paths can be shown next to one another, using different colors or icons to illustrate possible outcomes. This flow chart template can be similar to number six “Journeys and Stories” but can include several stories with competing narratives.
This is a how-to guide that shows specific steps taken from beginning to end of a process. A flow chart template like this is educational and can demonstrate what steps to take in order to reach a goal. It does not predict outcomes but suggests the ideal pathway to complete all steps in the correct order. This type of flow chart template can help educate a person who has never approached this task. This type of template is primarily instructional.
6. Journeys and Stories
The human brain is hard-wired to love a story. We all know how to tell them, and the simplest “journey” flow chart template will have a beginning, middle, and end. This flow chart is excellent for blog authors and social media promotion because it is not technical and appeals to a wide audience. Consider telling a story using a template instead of chapters. Businesses can use these effectively in showing what the company has accomplished.
7. Decision Makers
Flow charts take complicated concepts and break them down into small pieces. A simple flow chart template can help someone make a decision when stumped or overwhelmed. Social media uses these simple templates to help people calm down, date, or plan a meal. This is the simplest kind of flow chart and mocks or salutes the flow chart concept, depending on your perspective.
There is a flow chart for every occasion – whether explaining a complex process or making a simple list. The visual component of flow charts, and the variety of flow charts possible make the flow chart temple an ideal companion for problem-solving, communication, and process improvement. The right flow chart will clarify, add depth, and make the process more interesting. Flow charts are ideal for company presentations, social media, interdepartmental communication, and documentation of company processes. Using a flow chart template will save time and headaches and never fails to impress.
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