Flowcharts represent, in a step-by-step fashion, a workflow or a process. They are tools to support decision-making and problem-solving. They allow viewers to identify how the combination of different conditions or events can lead to different outcomes.
Contract readers are busy people and need quick, clear answers from the contract to inform their actions. But it’s often difficult to find straightforward answers for at least two reasons:
Readers need simple ways to have all relevant information at hand, and see and understand alternatives and exceptions.
Flowcharts are useful for clauses that describe processes where different decisions determine possible alternative outcomes (e.g., price change, change management, complaint escalation, remedies to contract breach).
Flowcharts break down complex decisions, processes, or assessments into a series of simpler steps. Readers do not need to keep in mind all the information they will need at once, but can consider one step at a time. Relevant decision points, alternative paths, and possible outcomes are visible at a glance. This is useful not only when reading a document, but also when creating it: a flowchart is a good way to audit whether a process, a provision, or a rule is logical and covers all necessary contingencies.
© 2019 Stefania Passera, Helena Haapio, and WorldCC
A flowchart is used to clarify when price changes enter into effect and what happens if a customer objects.
Source: Shell Marine Lubricants Terms & Conditions
© 2018 Royal Dutch Shell plc. Used with permission.
Designer: Rob Waller
This flowchart, used in a visual guide explaining the Finnish public procurement terms (JYSE 2009 SERVICES), illustrates a price change procedure and the preconditions for requesting a price change. Different outcomes are set out, and color-coding indicates whether disagreements may escalate into contract termination. Each block of text in the flowchart cross-references the contract clauses, so that the diagram and text can be used together to further understanding.
© 2013 Aalto University & Suomen Kuntaliitto ry (The Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities).
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-ND 3.0 Unported License
Designer: Stefania Passera
Under the laws of England and Wales, clients have the right to be notified of their rights and the process to escalate their complaint to the Legal Ombudsman. Law firms need to include this information clearly in their terms of business. Coffin Mew added a flowchart in the "Complaints" clause of their terms of business. The flowchart explains the complaint process in a clearer and more actionable way, transforming an exercise in compliance into an opportunity to create a better customer experience.
© 2016 Coffin Mew LLP. Used with Permission.
Designer: Stefania Passera
Have you used flowcharts in your contracts? You can contribute to the Library by sharing an example.