In what is going to be our last article for the year 2019, writing on process improvement just feels right considering that in all updated ISO standards Continuous Improvement is always the last clause (Clause 10)! -)
Imagine you have been given a new task in your organization to improve processes within the organization so operations can run smoothly and efficiently, how will you achieve this? One way to successfully complete this task would be to analyze and understand each process and each step in the different processes. However, reading text-based procedures (SOP’s) will take a lot of time which might even defeat the purpose of the exercise. As opposed to that monotonous method, using a visual process mapping technique will help you better analyze and understand the process. This article will discuss how the Swim Lane Diagram can be adopted as a visual process mapping technique.
What is a Swim Lane Diagram?
A swim lane diagram, also called a cross-functional flow chart, or swim lane process map, is an element used in mapping process workflows. It groups components into a distinct sequence, or lane, in the visual presentation of workflow and process charts.
Swim lane diagram is a technique used in mapping the flow of a process; roles, persons or departments are distinguished for each step in the process. In swim lane maps, parallel lines divide the chart into lanes, hence the name, with each lane representing a person, role or department.
Below is a simple swim lane diagram that describes a process for ordering a product online.
From a glance we can see the ordering process starts with the customer making the order, the order is received by the sales department which then forwards it to the stock department to check for the availability of the product. In an instance where stock is unavailable, the order is canceled by the sales department and feedback to the customer while in the case where the product is available the process continues till the customer receives feedback.
In summary, the swim lane diagram shows each step and the responsible party for each of the activities, points of decisions up until the end of the process. This visual mapping gives an overview of the process and facilitates the understanding of the process.
This process mapping approach offers key advantages such as:
- Better Understanding and Communication
- Simplify Complex processes
- Identifies areas where redundancies, bottlenecks, handoffs exist
- Identifies the involved party in each step
To learn more about Process Improvement and reducing waste in your organization, register for any of our upcoming Process Improvement Training starting in February! Download our 2020 public training calendar HERE (P.S: discounts apply for early registration!)