The Power of the Flow Chart

Sometimes it's more effective to visualize something graphically that it is to describe it with words. This idea can be for workflows, processes, to-do lists even. That is the essence of what flow charts do for you. As you probably know, flow charts explain a process clearly through symbols and text. The most beneficial thing is flow charts give you the gist of the process flow in a single glance. 

One way to utilize flowcharts within the social work space would be for workflows. Workflows don't manage themselves. To ensure that you are meeting your clients' needs, you need to take control of your business processes. The first step to workflow management is to define the current state of your processes by creating an "As-Is Flowchart". That allows you to analyze your processes for waste and inefficiency. After you have identified areas for process improvement, you can then craft new flowcharts to document the leaner processes.

While there are several variations of flowcharts that you can use to define a process, there are a few that stand out to help visualize workflow and to better engage in management strategies.

Workflow Diagrams

A workflow diagram is a slightly more generic flowchart that provides a graphic overview of a business process. It typically uses standardized symbols and shapes, showing tasks that need to be completed step by step. They can be as simple or as complex as needed.

These types of flowcharts can be useful if you’re trying to track metrics for a process, improve a process by eliminating inefficiencies, or automate a manual process. They can also be useful to help employees understand their particular roles and how they relate to other departments as well as to train new employees.

Swim Lane Diagrams

Swim lane diagrams take the basic workflow diagram a step further. A swimlane diagram not only depicts steps in the process, but also separates each unit within the organization, highlighting interaction between departments and providing a high-level view of possible inefficiencies.

They also add areas on your flowchart (the swim lanes) to show additional components to a process, like when multiple departments or roles are involved. Swim lanes point out who is doing the work as well as what is being done.

Process Flowcharts

Similar to the swim lane diagram, you also have the option of using a slightly more complex diagram called a process flowchart. Process flowcharts are mostly used in more manufacturing, administrative or service processes, but can be useful for other high-level processes as well.

It can be used for mapping out roles and responsibilities within an organization or for drawing up a proposal for a new process or project. One of the benefits of a process flowchart is that you are not limited to a single department or function. You can gain a much higher-level overview of a business process across the organization.

If you are looking to refine your daily tasks, monthly tasks or department workflows, we recommend using a flow chart! We absolutely recommend having at least a basic flowchart for your business processes (don’t forget to do a workflow analysis if you haven’t already). We also have additional blog posts about flowcharts if you want more info!