Swim Lane Diagrams: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Brianna Whiting
Sometimes, companies need to show a process. There are many diagrams to choose from when showing how information flows. In this lesson, we'll learn about one of them, known as the swim lane diagram.

A Look at Swim Lane Diagrams

Do you remember as a kid when your teacher would explain something, and it just didn't make sense? That is, until she drew some sort of picture for you to visualize what she was thinking. Oftentimes, we need more than just an explanation; we need a picture to put the words to.

This is true for many businesses as well. Because there are so many departments and many employees working within those departments, it's often difficult to really see who does what within a company. Not knowing who is responsible for tasks and a multitude of responsibilities can be problematic.

To reduce confusion and stress, companies often create flowcharts to give a picture of what happens behind the doors of a company. In this lesson, we'll look at a specific tool that's based on the lanes that swimmers use, known as a swim lane diagram.

Swim Lane Defined

Visualize a pool where swimmers are competing with each other. This pool is divided into strips, known as lanes, and each swimmer is assigned to a specific lane.

Similarly, a swim lane diagram is a chart that shows how a company is divided by departments or employee responsibilities so that everyone can see the process from start to finish. Each responsibility is separated out so that each employee or department understands who does what.

Key Characteristics

Lets take a look at why a company might use a swim lane diagram.

  • It's a clearly organized picture of responsibilities.
  • It explains what other departments or employees do within the company.
  • It can clarify problems in the chain of process from start to finish. For example, is there duplication of tasks or tasks that can be eliminated because they're not needed? Are there tasks missing?
  • It shows the connection of tasks between all departments or employees in a company.
  • It allows you to break up the process into smaller pieces to look for inefficiencies.

Creating a Swim Lane Diagram

Here are the key steps to creating a swim lane diagram.

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