The Beetle Diagram

Are you using Turtle Diagrams in an ISO 9001 organization? You may find this blog useful. If you are new to Turtle Diagrams, I’ve provided a couple of links below for reference.

Turtle Diagrams are used as a tool to better understand processes. They provide a graphical representation of processes and encourage users to apply “the process approach.” Auditors often use Turtle Diagrams to map out the process they are going to audit - to clarify and verify their understanding of it. Some organizations use them as training aids or to provide process controls or work instructions. A wide variety of free Turtle Diagram templates are available for use here

All Turtle Diagrams show the inputs and outputs of a process (graphically as the head and tail, respectively) of the turtle. Sometimes, the steps or activities of the process are shown as the body of the turtle, possibly as a simple flowchart displayed on the shell of the turtle. Then, each leg represents additional information specific to the process:

Typically, one leg represents the process controls; this may be the criteria, methods, specifications, or standards related to the process.

The second leg represents the resources required (facilities, equipment, infrastructure, etc.).

The third leg is typically who is involved and describes who has responsibility and authority for the process or steps within the process.

The fourth leg represents the process measures (metrics or “key process indicators”). It answers the question: How is this process measured?

The fifth leg... da##it...  Turtles only have four legs and ISO 9001:2015 spells out more process-related requirements.

ISO 9001:2015, clause 4.4.1(b) states that the organization shall determine the processes needed for the quality management system (e.g., planning, purchasing, manufacturing, designing) and determine the sequence and interaction of the processes. A management system, after all, is a set of interacting processes. The rest of clause 4.4.1 (a, c, d, e, f, g, and h) is essentially a laundry list to ensure good understanding and management of your processes. For each process of your quality management system, you must:

  • determine the inputs and outputs (head and tail)

  • determine the criteria and methods (first leg)

  • determine the resources required (second leg)

  • assign responsibilities and authorities (third leg)

  • evaluate the process (fourth, and sadly, the last leg)

  • address risks and opportunities related to the process (Would it be wrong to wish a fifth leg on a turtle just for my convenience? Yes, probably so.)

  • continually improve the process (The sixth leg, if there were one, might represent 5S, lean, six sigma, or some other improvement cycle used to improve the process described.)

Turtles have existed for hundreds of millions of years with only four legs. Turtle Diagrams are more recent, but arguably in greater need of evolution. So, I am introducing the Beetle Diagram! (It even sounds similar to Turtle Diagram.) Six legs! And the stag beetle has hefty mandibles (just in case there are other categories of process knowledge you want to capture). Also, they have (small) antennae in case there is even more process knowledge you want to capture!

' Sober, Bob . "Lamprima adolphinae" 2018'

'Sober, Bob. "Lamprima adolphinae" 2018'

With the Beetle Diagram, you or your organization can document all of the process information required by ISO 9001 (clause 4.4.1) and, thanks to mandibles and antennae, any additional information you find useful.

Disclaimer: No Beetle Diagrams, Turtle Diagrams or any other diagrams were harmed in the making of this blog.

November 19, 2018 update - I’d like to wish a very special thank you to Bob Sober for allowing me use of a piece from his amazing collection of beetle photographs! Check out Bob’s website,

References Relating to Turtle Diagrams (Bob Sober’s website)