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 Feature
24 October 2010 | Juan Jimenez Blog
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RACIng in the Swim Lane - Part 2
This week Juan follows up from his previous blog on RACI diagrams and provides you with some more Swim Lane examples...

  Juan Jimenez
  Figure 2
  Figure 1

In my last blog I wrote a piece about the use of RACI charts and Swim Lane diagrams in IT Service Management (or any other process-based activity). As a result, one person asked me to provide more examples of Swim Lane diagrams. Happy to oblige.

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

Figure 1 is an example of a basic, simple Swim Lane diagram for a sample Change Management process. You can immediately see why they are called “Swim Lane” diagrams – they look like the lanes in a swimming pool in which the swimmers must swim during a race. The diagram presents the interactions between roles in a process that assumes successful filtering and a recommendation of approval for the Request for Change (RFC). As each role hands off the RFC to another role, the diagram plots the movement.

The beauty of a Swim Lane diagram is that it clearly shows the interactions between roles internal or external to your organization, and the activities in a process. In Figure 1, you can easily visualize the workflow, beginning with an initiator anywhere inside the organization, followed by the Change Manager evaluating the RFC, sending it to the Change Advisory Board and waiting for it to come back with a recommendation. The diagram assumes approval, which then leads to planning and updating information, coordination of execution and a final post-implementation review before the RFC is finally closed.

Figure 2 (above), on the other hand, is an example of an attempt to draw a Swim Lane diagram depicting the flow of a process that is too bureaucratic and complex for its own good. As you can see, the diagram shows a number of flows that seem to go repeatedly back and forth with no rhyme or reason. Trying to make sense of this is just about impossible – and that probably explains why trying to execute this process is just as much a nightmare.

The job of the process improvement specialist is to then break down the complexity of the process into its constituent components and attempt to understand what is going on. You must then simplify the components and eliminate duplicate or superfluous interactions before you reassemble the process and test it through execution.

As always, the point of my blogs is to get readers to think, rather than provide ready-made answers, because I will be the first to admit I do not always have them.

Feedback on my blog entries is always welcome!

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26th October 2010

Hi Juan,

Thx for sharing your knowledge and responding to my initial question ;-)
Or, I am dumb (and everybody else knew what you're talking about) or nobody understood it at all ;-))

Thx nevertheless

Romain

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26th October 2010

Hi Romain,

You're welcome. It's not that anyone's dumb, but rather that the way some people explain things like this follows a set simplistic methodology for its use and do not explore the possibilities of the diagrams.  Most of the explanations show the use of the diagrams in ideal conditions where everything's perfect, but don't show examples of the chaos of reality. :)

Glad to be of help.

Regards,

Juan

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