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Swim Lane Diagrams (7086 hits)

Mapping and Improving the Processes in Your Organization



When thinking about your organization, have you ever said to yourself that the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing?

Chances are you have: Despite all the efforts people have made to streamline business operations and flatten organization structures, there are still a great many activities that involve more than one department or team.

Whether you organize your department or teams by function (marketing, accounts, operations), by purpose (for example, corporate customer management) or by any other means, the fact is that a department or team needs to work with other departments or teams.

This means connections, communications and hand-offs between departments and teams. And these create the risk of processing gaps, inefficiencies and duplications, which can contribute to reduced performance or higher costs.

Even well designed processes and interactions are at risk of inefficiency creeping in: It's a fact of human nature; and so, it's something that needs to be managed. By having a formal method for identifying and integrating processes between departments and teams, you can ensure the connections, communications and hand-offs are well-designed and well managed. One such approach uses "Swim Lane Diagrams," also known as "Rummler-Brache Diagrams."

Swim Lane Diagrams were proposed by Geary Rummler and Alan Brache in their book Improving Processes (1990). This method of diagramming allows you to quickly and easily plot and trace processes and, in particular, the interconnections between processes, departments and teams.

Like other process diagramming techniques, with the Rummler-Brache method, you map processes linearly as a series of tasks across the page. Lines and arrows between tasks represent the flow of information, goods or work-in-progress, and also represent changes in responsibility.

The identifying feature of Rummler-Brache is the use of "swim lanes", horizontal rows across the diagram page. Think of a swim meet where each competitor has his or her own lane to swim: In this diagramming method, each "swim lane" may belong to an individual, a team, a department, or any other organizational unit you choose.

Process diagrams, in general, are a great tool to help spot processing gaps and inefficiencies. The added advantage of the Rummler-Brache or Swim Lane Diagram approach is that it focuses on the high risk interconnections between departments and teams, and helps you spot more clearly issues and risks associated with these.
Example

Here is a simple manufacturing example: XYZ Corp. makes Grommels. Grommels are made of three pieces of metal two of which are welded together and then joined with the third.

Continued: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_89.htm?utm_source=nl&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20Jan15#np
Posted By: Elynor Moss
Tuesday, January 20th 2015 at 8:25AM
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