Scripted Flowchart Process™

The Scripted Flowchart Process™, as developed by Doug Anton, is a documentation method for linking the traditionally used flowchart with a playscript technique to record the text. This provides a very visual way to record and use procedures. The benefit is that documentation is more concise and easy to understand and use.

See an example of the Scripted Flowchart Process for ISO 9001

Using The Scripted Flowchart Process™ to Write Clear and Concise ISO 9000 Procedures

Good documentation is a key to sustaining a successful ISO 9000 process. An effective quality system must be developed, followed and constantly refined.

The documentation process described was developed by Doug Anton a few years ago during an ISO 9000 implementation project. It is a new, user-friendly way to write procedures that truly describe actual work processes, and are easy for the average person to read and understand. Based on the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words, the Scripted Flowchart Process™ stresses that procedures that are the most useful are usually also the simplest and most straightforward.

The Flowchart

The flowchart is the technique at the core of this process. It has long been used to illustrate systems and procedures. Unlike traditional flowcharting, which can lose readers as they jump back and forth between flowchart to text, this method does not separate the flowchart from the descriptive text.

Playscript

Playscript, the next technique making up the Scripted Flowchart Process™, uses a two-column format. Procedures are written like a script for a play. The left-hand column lists the name of the “actor,” or the person(s) responsible for accomplishing the task. The larger right-hand column describes the task and lists necessary documents and special instructions.

The Process

As important as the documents themselves, however, is the technique used to gather information about the work process being documented. Typically this is done by one or two people, often mid-level managers and technical writers, who sit in an office and generate the documentation by conducting individual interviews of the people involved in the work process. Conversely, with this new approach, the group that best understands the work process is brought together from the beginning. The group, consisting usually of five to nine people, first develops a flowchart of the entire procedure.

When creating the flowchart, start off by asking, “What is the very first thing that happens?” Then draw it on a white board. A white board is a great tool to use and works well for this because it allows you to easily change the flowchart as you fine-tune your understanding of the work process.

Once the flowchart reflects accurately the work process being documented, then the playscript writing is begun. This is done by filling in the two columns. Start by going to the first block on the flowchart and saying, “Okay, whose responsibility is this?”, then write in the person’s name or, ideally, a specific job title. Then, working as a group, answer several other questions, for instance: “What are the key details?” “What forms do they fill out?” “What keystrokes do they use?” When describing each task in the playscript, include only the appropriate level of detail, always striving to keep it brief.

Each task is addressed until every block in the flowchart has a corresponding description in the playscript. Very quickly you have an accurate script with a brief description of each of the tasks on the flowchart. Emphasis should be placed on the flowchart accuracy, depicting what is actually occurring, not what might be desired.

When the flowchart and playscript are completely filled-in, you edit, constantly comparing the flowchart to the playscript and vice versa, to make sure that you’ve correctly described the entire work process. By comparing the playscript and the flowchart, you are better able to fine-tune both, eliminating redundancies, simplifying and clarifying when necessary.

Linking the Techniques

By linking a flowchart illustrating the process to a playscript describing each task, fewer words are needed. Each task of the flowchart is numbered and a corresponding number added to the playscript. By doing this, it becomes quite clear who is responsible for each task. Furthermore, the playscript provides a convenient place to list additional details such as required forms and computer system keystrokes. When the work process has been identified in a very visual manner like this, it is easier for people to determine areas where improvement and streamlining could occur.

Documentation and Quality Records

Additional sections when added to Scripted Flowcharting, work particularly well for companies documenting ISO 9000 procedures. The Documentation section lists all the required documents for each task with the current revision. Another section, Quality Records, shows who is responsible for maintaining the required quality records, as well as where they are kept, and their retention times. By using this method, the complete procedure/work instruction is usually well under ten pages and much easier for people to use.

Conclusion

Companies become more effective when their documentation is simpler, more concise and accessible. Scripted flowcharting addresses this by providing a method for writing instructions that people can really use to better understand and improve work processes. Involve the most knowledgeable workers in the information-gathering process, keep flowcharts simple, streamline and simplify processes where possible and write playscripts in everyday, easy-to-understand language. Your quality system will benefit because user-friendly instructions are available for employees’ reference and guidance.

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