Choosing Quality Tools (Mind Map vs. Flowchart vs. Spaghetti Diagram)

Within our quality toolbox, there are a lot of graphical organizers. Some are better at fulfilling different goals than others. Iwe have a goal in mind, then we may choose a certain tool. However, we don’t want analysis paralysis about which tool is best to stop us from using any tool at all. 

I share my 3 general guidelines about choosing a graphical quality tool, how to draw them, and when to use them.

Plus, we talk about 3 tools in particular, prompted by a social media ask: mind map, process flowchart, and spaghetti diagram. We get into what they are, when we're most likely to use them, and how they can be used for design. 

Process Flowchart

Common Flowchart Symbols

Spaghetti Diagram

Spaghetti Diagram
By Christoph Roser at AllAboutLean.com under the free CC-BY-SA 4.0 license.

Dianna's Guidelines for Choosing Graphical Quality Tools

#1: MAKE A CHOICE AND CHANGE YOUR MIND IF YOU WANT

While each quality tool has a specific use, is it wrong to approach a new problem with just any of them? No. Just try them. You’ll learn something more about what you’re trying to figure out. And you can change your mind and go with a different tool instead. 

For a great reference book about many quality tools, get this book: Tague, Nancy R. The Quality Toolbox. ASQ, 2005.

The Quality Toolbox by Nancy R. Tague

The Quality Toolbox by Nancy R. Tague

#2: DRAWING THEM IS USUALLY BEST

Avoid the software templates. Get out some paper and colored markers and let yourself have some fun. Or try a cooperative whiteboard with your team. 

For an online, remote collaboration tool (like virtual post-it notes) try http://www.mural.co. It is recommended by Dr. Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, who works in innovation management. There are also collaboration tools in Google and MS Office online versions.

#3: USE THEM ANYTIME, BUT SOMETIMES INTENTIONAL USE IS BEST

Learning about a tool and then sharing it with your team can lead to enjoyable and productive meetings that have team building results, too. Preparing yourself to be a good facilitator is worthwhile for you, the project, and your team. 

The Quality Toolbox book also has best-use recommendations and use scenarios for quality tools. General skills in facilitating meetings apply, here. 

Extra Resources

For Mind Maps

This TEDx talk by Dr. Wagner describes why a mind map works to help us study and analyze new information for better understanding. 

Wagner, Hazel. "Want to Learn Better? Start Mind Mapping." YouTube, uploaded by TEDx Talks, 13 December 2017, youtu.be/5nTuScU70As.

Mr. Huang created a video tutorial example of how to use mind mapping to start planning for project management. He also has good recommendations for notations. 

Huang, Sheng. "Mind Map Tutorial | My Secret for Project Management." YouTube, uploaded by Shen Huang, 18 May 2020, youtu.be/o1WhjPh3ZQ4.

For Process Flowcharts

If you’d like to get more into process flow charting, then there are two previous Quality During Design episodes I recommend:  

Episode 29 “Types of Design Analyses possible with User Process Flowcharts” talks about a lot of various analyses we can do with a process flow chart, like identifying important tasks, making the process more efficient, and performing a costs analysis. 

Episode 2 “My product works. Why don't they want it?” talks about a process flow chart for the user’s process and the appropriate level of detail we may need to identify the true customer needs and requirements for our design. 

For Spaghetti Diagrams

If you are new to spaghetti diagrams, get in touch with your local Quality Professional or see this resource from ASQ.

"What is a Spaghetti Diagram?" Learn About Quality. ASQ, asq.org/quality-resources/spaghetti-diagram, Accessed 24 November 2021.

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