QUALITY TOOL: FLOW DIAGRAM
In Quality Capsule 9 we solved the mystery of the vanishing linen. What was the key tool the team used? Without a doubt, flow diagram.
The reality is that we all know how to construct a flow diagram. At least, to some degree. We know it is not rocket science.
In summary, a flow diagram is a graphic representation of the sequence of steps, in a process, needed to produce some output – product, service, document.
Further, a flow diagram provides a quality improvement team with a common understanding of the process that enables the team to identify potential problems, bottle necks, unnecessary steps, and rework loops.
Analysing a Flow Diagram
While interpreting and analysing a flow diagram, we assume that the flow diagram reflects the actual process in our work environment. Usually, this is not the case.
The failure to document the actual process is a key pitfall that must be avoided. Here are a few potential causes:
- The designers of the original process are drawing the flow diagram to represent the process they designed. Not the process that has evolved.
- The managers on the team resist drawing parts of the actual process that are obviously illogical. They fear that they might be called to explain why they allowed it to happen.
- Rework is assumed to be small and inevitable. So the rework loops are not documented by the team.
I recommend that the team constructing the flow diagram must have persons with detailed knowledge of the process being studied. Segment by segment.
A flow diagram can be a great facilitation tool. Do you agree? If yes, how?
In my next edu-blog, on Wednesday 16 September, I will introduce a right-brain tool, Brainstorming.