Create A System
HOW TO REPRESENT A SYSTEM
Talking about any system can be complicated if you don’t come up with an easy way to represent it visually, such as through the use of a flow chart. Flow charts simplify a complex system into something with separate, distinct steps that can be easily understood.
To make a flow chart for any system, you have to have a good understanding of how that system works. You'll find that without very specific knowledge of the procedures and practices in place, it will be virtually impossible for you to create an accurate and useful flow chart.
STEPS TO MAKE A FLOW CHART
Here are the steps you will want to follow to create a flow chart for yourself:
- Clearly state the first and last step of the process. There must be a distinct beginning and ending point in your chart, or else you risk losing your direction in the middle steps. The end goal must be well stated and have a tangible outcome. Example beginning and end points of a system could be the process of sending a letter through the post. The beginning step is to create the letter itself. The ending step is for the letter to be delivered to its destination. There are many steps in between, but these are the clear and obvious beginning and ending points.
- Define the ideal steps within. Because there can sometimes be multiple possible outcomes from any one step, it's best to start out with the most successful course of action first. List each step that must happen, to go from step one to the final step. Don't think about what could go wrong just yet, and try to concentrate only on the best-case scenario. In our post office example, this would include steps such as placing the completed letter in the mailbox, collection of that letter by the main delivery staff, processing of the letter at the post office, and directing the letter toward final delivery.
- Consider any alternate paths. Now is the time when you should think about what else each step might lead towards. If there is more than one outcome that can happen at any stage, you need to explain what would happen for each outcome, including those that don't match the ideal path. Imagine if the letter was not addressed properly and was delivered to the wrong address. The recipient might have to give it back to the post office, where it would be returned to the sender, and the process would start over again. While you don't need to list every possible redirect on the flow chart, it's useful to list the most common alternate paths.
- Write out the chart itself and begin editing. First write out the ideal steps and then add on the alternate paths with proper directing symbols and some reasonable organization. If the chart doesn't properly explain the system, looks too cluttered up, or is more confusing that it should be, you will need to edit it until it's simple to understand. If need be, take away some of the alternate paths and leave mainly the ideal path. As the ideal path shows how things ought to work in the system, it demonstrates the desired path within the whole chart. Alternate paths are useful for explaining common non-ideal results, but they should not be crowding the main points.
Flow charts are one of the simplest ways of explaining a complex system. Although they are simple to read, a lot of thought and consideration should be put into making one for your system. Make sure you follow these steps to ensure that your chart turns out to be useful, relevant, and above all simple to understand.