Swim Lane Diagram

A swim lane (also known as swimlane) diagram is a type of flowchart. Like a flowchart, it visualizes a process from start to finish, but it also divides these steps into categories to help distinguish which departments or employees are responsible for each set of actions.

These lanes are columns that keep actions visually separated from others. A swim lane diagram makes responsibilities more clear than a regular flowchart. When looking to improve processes, knowing which department is responsible for what can help speed up the process of correcting inefficiencies and eliminating delays.

Swim lane diagram

Why Swimlane Diagrams Are Useful

During any process improvement initiative, swimlanes help identify not just the bottlenecks in a process, but also which department is responsible for them.

A swim lane diagram is also useful in helping clarify responsibilities and help departments work together in a world where departments often don't understand what the other departments do.

You may find costly redundancies and duplications or gaps and communication problems.

How to Create a Swim Lane Diagram

  • Identify the lanes. Decide what divisions you need represented by swimlanes and label them.
  • Start your chart. Define the starting point of the process. Add a rounded rectangle to the top of the appropriate swim lane to indicate its starting point and label it.
  • Add steps. Next add more steps to your chart. Each step should be connected to the one before it with a line. To draw steps in the same swimlane, draw from top to bottom. To add a step in another division go from left to right. With each step, describe what it represents until you reach the end of the process. The arrows between the steps indicate the transfer of information or flow.

For more information on creating flowcharts, read our flowchart tutorial.