One of my favorite methods of doing a process map (as they’re very quick and easy to throw together in Excel for an easily understandable map), the swimlane flowchart easily splits out the job into categories, so e.g. each person can see what and when they are expected to do a task.
When to use / not to use
These are especially useful when it is a relatively linear (simple, so works the same each time) process, which involves several people or departments. This means if there are lots of options / lots of different ways of doing the process depending on factors, or if it only involves one or two people, there are likely better ways of mapping.
It’s very useful for seeing where processes are unnecessarily involving large amounts of travelling different departments, which is often a source of waste.
You can have swimlanes running vertically or horizontally (I prefer horizontal as I find it a little easier to follow; a process going left to right just seems more intuitive to me). For the method I’ll assume you’re going left to right (just flip if you want to do it vertically)
- List down the left of the table the different stakeholders involved (either people or departments)
- List the steps of the process in order from left to right
- Move the steps so that they are in the correct person / department ‘lane’
- Each person / department can now easily see which steps are theirs, and where they lie in the process.
An easy and regularly used example is for buying a product; this involves different departments, and a clear flow between the steps.
The diagram easily shows the dynamics between the different departments. It can show (as above) clearly procedures which would look more complicated written out. It is easy to see if procedures needlessly bounce between departments wastefully, and you can quickly identify the most complicated parts of the process which could be simplified or automated.