How To Use A Turtle Diagram For Effective Business Processes

In this article, learn why turtle diagrams are important and how they can be used to improve your system.

business team discussing their new framework using the turtle diagram

What is a Turtle Diagram?

A turtle diagram is a graphical representation of a set of process requirements, inputs, and outputs. It is so named because it resembles a turtle shell, with each element in the system represented by a different section of the shell.

Turtle diagrams are commonly used in business process improvement projects to map out the current state of a process and identify opportunities for improvement. They can also be used to map out the future state of a process after enhancements have been made. They are a valuable tool for any organization that wants to grow and improve its business processes.

What is its Purpose in the Industry?

A turtle diagram is a powerful tool that can be used to improve your understanding of a complex system. Turtle diagrams are often used in engineering and science to help simplify and visualize complex data. They can also be used in business and management to help understand and analyze complex problems.

This diagram is used to identify potential areas of improvement in a system and track the progress of changes that have been made. While turtle diagrams can be helpful in a variety of different situations, they are particularly useful for businesses that rely on complex processes. By using a turtle diagram, businesses can gain a better understanding of their processes and identify areas where improvements can be made.

What are the Benefits of Using It?

There are many benefits to using turtle diagrams. They can be used to:

  • Quickly identify relationships between different elements of a system
  • Communicate complex information to stakeholders in a clear and concise manner
  • Help you to see the system as a whole, rather than as a series of individual parts
  • Generate hypotheses about how a system works
  • Make informed decisions about strategic partnerships, business processes, and product development

How Do You Use a Turtle Diagram?

If you’re new to turtle diagrams, don’t worry—they’re actually quite simple to use. Here’s a quick rundown of how to use a turtle diagram.

The turtle diagram has 6 areas:

  1. inputs: materials & equipment (what);
  2. procedures and methods (how);
  3. support processes;
  4. competence skills and training (whom);
  5. outputs; and
  6. performance indicators (results).

To make it easy, you can use a method similar to the Supplier-Input-Process-Output-Customer (SIPOC) framework for reference. Let’s explain each area to better understand how to use it in this section.


The process is located in the center of the diagram. It is the primary activity that transforms the inputs into outputs. This box addresses the important steps and sequences inside the scope of the project. This usually includes employees and multiple departments inside your organization.

Inputs (Receives What?)

This is the area where you put details of the actual process input. You must identify and list all requirements the process needs in order to complete its transformation. This could be workers, tools, space, information, etc.

Procedures and Methods (How?)

Procedures and methods are listed under support processes because they are generally what is used to help the primary process take place. This addresses the question of how the organization does things.

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Support Processes

These refer to the processes or activities that are required to support the primary process. Support processes are not value-adding but are nonetheless necessary for the success of the primary process. These are listed to the left of the process box and generally address the question of what the organization needs.

Competence Skills & Training (With Whom?)

This addresses the people or crew that will be completing the project. What skills or training do they need in order to complete the project?


Outputs are the results of the primary process. They are listed to the right of the process box and generally address the question of what the organization produces or what the outcome of the project is.

Performance Indicators (Results)

This is the area where you detail the specific indicators that will be used to measure the performance of the process. This is important for process improvement.

FAQs for Turtle Diagram

The name “turtle” comes from the fact that the inputs, outputs, and requirements are represented by a series of boxes and connecting lines, similar to the shell of a turtle. The process acts as the entire body of the turtle, with the inputs and outputs as the turtle’s head and tail. The rest of the components stand for the legs of the diagram, similar to a turtle’s legs.

A turtle diagram is a tool that can be used by anyone who wants to visually organize information. Auditors, for example, can benefit from using this diagram when mapping out the procedures, measures, and documents involved in the process they’ll be auditing.

The turtle diagram is often used in business to help map out processes and find ways to improve them. Using a visual representation, it provides a clear overview of how specific processes work from start to finish. Additional notes can also be added to the diagram to give context to particular points.

ISO 9001 is a process-based quality management system (QMS), and the turtle diagram provides a high-level view of the organization’s key processes. Although the turtle diagram is not specifically required by the ISO 9001 standard, it can be a helpful tool for organizations to use in planning and documenting their QMS.

SafetyCulture Content Team
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SafetyCulture Content Team
The SafetyCulture content team is dedicated to providing high-quality, easy-to-understand information to help readers understand complex topics and improve workplace safety and quality. Our team of writers have extensive experience at producing articles for different fields such as safety, quality, health, and compliance.