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Swim Lanes

Swim Lanes are a workflow diagram segmented by role responsibility. Each role is assigned a vertical column — a “swim lane” — that extends to the end of a process flow. The completion of many tasks is dependent on multiple roles performing their activity in the proper sequence, and a Swim Lane diagram can reveal a flaw in a process. Swim Lane diagrams typically are initiated in the upper left of the document and end at the lower right. The swim lanes columns assigned to roles should be allocated left to right to facilitate this orderly flow.

Description

Schedule Time & Gather Materials

Clock Icon

Schedule Time:

  • Time Needed: 4 Hours
Gather Materials

Gather Materials:

  • Spreadsheet
  • Flowchart software

Carry Out This Method

Swimming pool with lanes
  1. List the tasks and the order in which they must be performed.
  2. Create a diagram with roles assigned to swim lanes.
  3. Assign the tasks to the designated swim lane role. (A box with a description, a triangle for decisions. Shapes of the boxes can convey activity. Label appropriately.)
  4. Illustrate the task flow with arrows connecting the task shapes. (This is the classic boxes-and-arrows technique used by information architects.)
  5. Review with stakeholders. Ask if the diagram is accurate.
  6. Identify inefficiencies or gaps.
  7. Clarify responsibilities as necessary.

Try These Tips

  • Confusion as to who is responsible for a task is common. Make sure it is clear.
  • A companion to swim lane diagrams is a RACI matrix (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed). Particularly at large companies, completing a task is only part of an additional internal decision-sharing process that the designer needs to be aware of. Consider creating a project-level RACI matrix at the beginning of a project.

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