To define the process and identify tasks (and perhaps bottlenecks) or possible causes for specific problems in the process, interview staff who are involved in the process and review relevant laboratory documents (eg, procedure manuals). The next step might include “mapping the process.” The use of flowcharts and cause-and-effect diagrams can give those involved in the analysis a picture of the process and may contribute understanding as to which aspect(s) of the problem need(s) to be resolved.
Flowcharts are diagrams that show a process or steps / decisions within the process and how these steps fit together. The process steps are represented by different geometric shapes and are linked by arrows to show the order or flow direction of the steps. Consequently, flowcharts are very useful in conveying how a particular task is accomplished. By using the flowchart’s step-by-step picture of the process, distinct problems can be analyzed in a more effective way.
The illustration on the right provides a graphic representation and description of four of the most commonly used symbols of the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) standard flowchart symbols.