(1) A visual depiction of the steps in a process or system. Simple Flow Charts help in illustrating every step in a process in a concrete way so they can then be analyzed for improvement opportunities and division of labor etc.
(2) A graphical representation of the steps in a process. Flowcharts are drawn to better understand processes. One of the "Seven tools of quality".
(3) A pictorial representation of the progression of a particular process over time. Generally, a pictorial display of the sequence of actions taken in a process or in carrying out a task. There are several types of flow charts or flow diagrams: 1) top down - detailed steps are listed under headings describing major actions. 2) Logic flow - a symbolic display of the logical sequence of actions and decisions in a process. 3) Deployment flow - actions, decisions, meetings, etc., Are listed sequentially and in columns according to the individual, group or function responsible for, or participating in, the particular step. 4) Organization viewed as a system - a picture of an entire organization's components and its customers and suppliers as a system, beginning with customer research and ending with customers who use the output.
A flowchart is a type of diagram that represents an algorithm or process, showing the steps as boxes of various kinds, and their order by connecting these with arrows. This diagrammatic representation can give a step-by-step solution to a given problem. Process operations are represented in these boxes, and arrows connecting them represent flow of control. Data flows are not typically represented in a flowchart, in contrast with data flow diagrams; rather, they are implied by the sequencing of operations. Flowcharts are used in analyzing, designing, documenting or managing a process or program in various fields.
Flowcharts are used in designing and documenting complex processes. Like other types of diagram, they help visualize what is going on and thereby help the viewer to understand a process, and perhaps also find flaws, bottlenecks, and other less-obvious features within it. There are many different types of flowcharts, and each type has its own repertoire of boxes and notational conventions. The two most common types of boxes in a flowchart are:
* a processing step, usually called activity, and denoted as a rectangular box
* a decision, usually denoted as a diamond.
A flowchart is described as "cross-functional" when the page is divided into different swimlanes describing the control of different organizational units. A symbol appearing in a particular "lane" is within the control of that organizational unit. This technique allows the author to locate the responsibility for performing an action or making a decision correctly, showing the responsibility of each organizational unit for different parts of a single process.
Flowcharts depict certain aspects of processes and they are usually complemented by other types of diagram. For instance, Kaoru Ishikawa defined the flowchart as one of the seven basic tools of quality control, next to the histogram, Pareto chart, check sheet, control chart, cause-and-effect diagram, and the scatter diagram. Similarly, in UML, a standard concept-modeling notation used in software development, the activity diagram, which is a type of flowchart, is just one of many different diagram types.
Common alternate names include: flowchart, process flow chart, functional flow chart, process map, process chart, functional process chart, business process model, process model, process flow diagram, work flow diagram, business flow diagram.