Workflow Diagram

Problem Addressed

Gaining a detailed understanding of a workflow, identifying parts of the process that don’t add value or move the process forward, such as delays, movement (of physical items or information) or inspection/reviews (of physical items or information).

Method Proposed

The eventual result is a diagram, or series of interconnected diagrams, illustrating a sequence of activities (workflow). For example:

Workflow diagram example

  • Step 1 – On a large piece of paper draw start and end points of a process
  • Step 2 – Create post-its describing each activity and decision points within the process (one per post-it activity/decision point), adding them to the diagram as you progress
  • Step 3 – As you go, draw arrows between post-its indicating inputs and outputs or outcomes of decision points
  • Step 4 – Re-draw diagram using standard symbols (ideally use appropriate software such as Visio for this)

An important part of a workflow map is identifying ‘value adding’ and ‘non-value adding’ parts of the process. Those parts of the process that tend not to add value are:

  • Delays – time when no activity is happening
  • Movement – of physical items (e.g. between libraries) or information (between systems or teams)
  • Inspection – inspection of physical items or review of information

To help identify such ‘non-value adding’ parts of the process easily visible the following symbols are commonly used in workflow maps:

Workflow diagram symbols


The objective of this method is to understand the detail of a process, identify the parts of the process that do not add value. It should also identify clear inputs and outputs from the workflow.

When interpreting the workflow map it is important to look at all occurrences of non-value adding parts of the process and to ask if they can be avoided while the inputs and outputs of the process remain constant.