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What is a workflow diagram? 9 min read
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A workflow diagram can make or break your project.

With it, your team is in alignment, ready to face whatever the world throws at them.

workflow diagram, then, is a visual overview of a business process or workflow, most commonly through a flow chart. It has standard symbols for describing specific steps to complete a process, in addition to assigning owners responsibility for each step.

Thankfully, a workflow diagram is relatively straightforward and simple to create, once you’ve done some research. Once they’re set up, they keep everyone aligned and provide a much-needed boost when times are tough.

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What does workflow diagram do?

workflow is a series of step-by-step activities you carry out to finish a task, and a diagram provides a visual representation of information.

Ultimately, a workflow diagram guides your project through the work involved in each step of the process and helps you track metrics by way of standard symbols and shapes that represent each step of the process.

There are some variations, depending on the type of flowchart, but they tend to look a little something like this:

workflow diagram

workflow diagram example

Creating a workflow diagram is just step one. Once complete, you have to find a way to prioritize quality management and hold everyone accountable for their portion of the process.

The best way to do that is with some sort of workflow software or Work OS, like for example.

With it, your team maintains alignment for each step of the process, making it easy to visualize goals and make data-driven decisions that will ensure the data displayed is being put to good use. Having such a process flowchart also gives high-level visibility to potential weaknesses in a project, and can help identify crucial points for a process’s improvement.

Who uses workflow diagrams?

The chief use of workflow diagrams is to help employees fully understand their role and what work requires completion in a specific order.

Workflow diagrams were primarily used in manufacturing, but they’ve since evolved into just about every industry, whether you’re a mechanical engineer, an accountant, or a government employee.

Here are a few examples, where they can even be used as data flow diagrams, to show points at which specific details are captured:

  • E-commerce: shows the customer journey from awareness to interest to making decisions and purchasing. Expanded charts may even show post-sale actions like shipping, delivery, and retention activities.
  • Medical: shows the patient’s journey from arrival to processing, and finally to the examination and results.
  • Education: shows the stages a college student can expect from registration to acceptance to enrolling and finally receiving their degree.
  • Application development: shows each step in the process from brainstorming to wireframing and design, to programming and launch.

A workflow diagram is in heavy rotation for project managers from all industries, since they’re visually simple and easily understood by all stakeholders when it comes to business process mapping.

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What are the benefits of creating workflow diagrams?

When creating a workflow diagram, your goal is often to standardize a process, identify critical jobs, or identify potential bottlenecks or weaknesses in the current workflow.

Visualizing the workflow provides broader context and helps you take a step back to truly understand what’s going right and what’s going wrong.

Once completed, the quick visual nature of workflow diagrams helps teams understand what to do and how they fit into the company’s greater strategy. The spillover effect is a greater sense of cohesion and collaboration.

What do the symbols in a workflow diagram represent?

Workflow diagrams have an assortment of geometric shapes and symbols to help further define each step. Most of them are universally understood, but you’ll often encounter some unusual ones specific to an industry or project.

Here are some of the most common symbols:

  • Ovals: represent the beginning and end of a workflow diagram.
  • Rectangles: represent a single task or activity.
  • Diamonds: represent project decisions.
  • Parallelograms: represent some sort of input or output.
  • Squares: with wavy bottoms indicate reports or documents.
  • Bullet-shaped symbols: represent pre-determined project delays.
  • Arrows: indicate the flow of information in the diagram.

workflow diagram symbols explained

(Image Source)

On the off chance you’re building a more complex diagram, it’s important to include a legend to help people follow along.

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How to create a workflow diagram

Creating a flow of information via workflow diagram comes down a series of key steps, but the number one step is finding the right workspace. Whiteboards, sticky notes, and a flowchart tool or workflow diagram software work equally well for the planning phase.

You could even get resourceful with a big wall, some construction paper, and markers if you had to.

Whatever you do, make sure there’s plenty of room to expand the process and a simple way to make edits.

Here are the steps to creating a workflow diagram.

1. Conduct a workflow analysis

In simple terms, a workflow analysis means examining your current workflow so you have a baseline process to start with. Hopefully that gives you a general understanding of where you can make improvements.

As you deepen your understanding of your organization or team’s current workflow, make sure you note anything that feels fuzzy, cumbersome, redundant, or foolish. Take note of the current flow and everyone’s current responsibility.

The more thorough you are here, the easier it will be to build the foundation of your new and improved workflow diagram.

2. Define your terminal points

A pretty straightforward, but necessary step is figuring out where the process begins and where it ends. You’ll mark these “terminal points” with ovals on your workflow diagram, so everyone’s on the same page.

3. Write down the new process

Many articles will tell you to spare no detail, and that’s not necessarily bad advice.

However, we will caution you to still try and keep each step somewhat simple. That way, it’s crystal clear what the next action or decision will be.

It’s also important to use a verb/noun format whenever possible to keep things action-oriented.

For example, one such task or activity rectangle could say, “Create Surveys.”

It’ll take some practice to find the right balance between too little and too much detail, but don’t obsess over it.

Write down every step you can think of until the process is complete.

4. Analyze the results

Take a step back and admire your handy work.

Ask yourself some key questions like:

  • Does the workflow make sense?
  • Is the current order highly logical and takes into account proper resource allocations?
  • Are there any foreseen obstacles or possible bottlenecks?
  • Should we create any contingency plans for said obstacles?
  • Can anything be automated, delegated, or eliminated?

Answering these questions can and should likely change your workflow diagram, but it’s all for the greater good.

5. Create your final draft

Craft your hard work into its final visual form. so you can deliver it to the team or key stakeholders for sign off.

Make sure you use a format that’s easily editable, shareable, and usable.

And just like that, you’re all set!

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workflow management software like

While doesn’t create workflow diagrams, it does make it easier to put the activities from your workflow chart into action. It provides your team greater visibility, accountability, and insights in a way a workflow chart simply can’t.

We don’t offer workflow diagram software simply because it’s outdated. Sure, workflow diagrams have their uses, but modern project managers lean on technology. They care less about the visual and more about implementing the actual workflow.

Along the way, will help you keep track of each phase of your project and make it easy to stick to a timeline.

Some additional features you can expect from this optimized Work OS are:

  • 30+ customizable column types to ensure you’re curating the perfect workflow.
  • 8+ data visualizations that keep your whole team in alignment.
  • Unlimited automation recipes that prevent human errors and save you time.
  • 40+ integrations so you are always connected to the data your team needs.
  • Extensive communication tools that provide real-time updates from top to bottom.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re in the right place, because that’s exactly what is all about. We’ll help you implement the actions from your workflow diagram, so you can squeeze every bit of usefulness from it. makes it easy to analyze, manage, measure, implement, re-design, and monitor all of your company’s ongoing processes. With 200+ templates, we’ve got you covered on just about every project you can think up.

Give our process management template a whirl. In minutes your team could find itself in a flow state, ready to conquer the world (or at least the next project).

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