There’s something that has been bothering me for awhile. Well, there’s many things that have been bothering me – but one thing that has been “stuck in my craw” is the way process diagrams are depicted.
Below is a sample flowchart I grabbed from the internet. Note: I’m not picking on this or any individual flowchart.
This is a fairly typical flowchart. Flowcharts are everywhere. We draw them to illustrate the order of things – our thinking, design goals, project plans, etc. I put up a new illustration almost every day on my whiteboard, though I know I use the boxes and triangles and stuff wrong. I draw these things with people in live environments, with clients, youth, and others.
Here’s the thing, I don’t think anybody really understands these things. I also don’t think I really understand what I’m drawing. I’m not saying the boxes and triangles don’t make logical sense – of course they do – the problem is that they don’t actually depict anything that actually happens.
What actually happens – apart from whatever activity or process described in any particular box – happens here:
I would venture to say that very few people can describe the series of activities, thinking, stress, anxiety, teamwork, and other related actions that occur in the arrows. The arrows are the most interesting part, and where all the meaningful work happens, but when we describe to others the sequences of steps that occur in decision making we skip over these parts.
It is the arrows that make all the difference but we seem to spend the least amount of time thinking about what to do in between the documents and output. The value is in the arrows, focus there. This is where people get involved and can either move things along or stop things completely.