This guide is brought to you by Zen Flowchart, the simplest flowchart maker.


If you are creating a flowchart of a process that is complicated and involves many parties, try using a swimlane flowchart flowchart. It will simplify the processes and help you better identify areas for improvements.

Swimlane Flowchart 


A swimlane flowchart (or swimlanes) is a type of flowchart that simulates the lanes in a swimming pool to highlight the job sharing and tasks of the members in a business process. It can be arranged horizontally or vertically. 

The diagram displays the connections and the handoffs between members' tasks, which helps you figure out the flaws and shortcomings of the process.

swimlane flowchart


The first time a chart with many columns appeared was in the 1940s. They are similar to the ones we are using today in purpose, explaining a process consisting of many units. 

Until 1990, the swimlane diagram was emphasized in the book Improving Process by Geary Rummler and Alan Brache. You can also find this tool under the name “Cross-functional diagram”, used in Microsoft Office Visio.

Attributes And Elements

As we have said above, the tool consists of parallel horizontal or vertical lines, which divide it into lanes. Sometimes, horizontal lines are used instead of vertical ones because the computer screen’s width is greater than its length. 

swimlane flowchart

Once the chart outline is done, put the steps in the suitable lanes. The labels of the lanes are the member or the workgroup department who is in charge of that step. There are arrows between the lanes to show the connection of the steps.

Swimlanes’ Advantages 

A swimlane diagram can benefit your work in different ways, making it a capable assistant to your business.

By delineating who does what in the sub-processes of the business, the diagram lets the members of the department know what the others are doing. That way, the teamwork will be smoother and more in sync.

You can also find unnecessary details of your plan and perfect it when observing and comparing different lanes. Moreover, the connection between the lanes reveals inefficiencies and capacity constraints so you can get rid of them. In short, another advantage of this tool is improving the process itself. 

Swimlanes is a diagram, which means it visualizes the process steps you want to share with everyone. The symbols and short, clear terms will help you get across your message faster and easier than normal narrative information, improving the communication among the team.

When To Use Swimlane Flowcharts?

Since every lane is labeled with the actor of that step, any process with more than one party is ideal for representing a flowchart of swimlane. Handling a lead is a prime example of applying this tool in the sales workflow process. 

The marketing department will label the first lane as it starts off the lead. Here, the lead will be nurtured, assessed, and then passed to a salesperson if it is qualified. The lead becomes a customer when a deal is reached. At that point, the responsibility shifts to the customer service department. 

Then, a connection is formed between the marketers and the sales representatives. If the survey and customer feedback are positive, the lead will get back to the latter party for a renewed contract or product upsell.

How To Create A Swimlane Flowchart?


- Know Your Goal

Defining your expectations and knowing what you aim for is essential no matter what you do. In the case of making a diagram, this will let you know the purpose of the diagram and guide you in the right direction.

- Break Down

Breaking down your plan will give you a deeper understanding of it. Besides, detailed pieces of the process also help divide information into groups of the diagram clearer and easier.

- Build The Outline Of The Tool

This is the step where you list all the actors (members, employees, departments) involved in the business.

swimlane flowchart

- Do Research

To create swimlanes, you need to divide your plan into smaller steps. That requires you to collect information about who does what and find out the interconnection between those sub-processes and actors.


1. Outline Of The Diagram

You can draw the tool either by hand or use diagramming software. As we mentioned, the diagram can be arranged horizontally or vertically. If you change your mind later, simply swivel it across the top. To do this step correctly, check the number of steps you have finalized beforehand.

2. Use The Symbols To Demonstrate The Steps

Different information needs different kinds of symbols. Make sure you use the right symbols and place them in the right lanes and order. That will minimize your chance of messing up the diagram.

Flowchart Symbols
Flowchart Symbols

3. Confirm The Final Result

Use a flowchart maker like Zen Flowchart to make swimlane flowcharts more easily. Confirm your flowchart with the people involved and make adjustments if necessary.

4. Use The Diagram

After all the information used passes the confirmation test, you can finally put the diagram to use. This is the part where you get to enjoy all the benefits of this amazing tool: better communication, clearer job-sharing, revealing bottlenecks, and efficiencies.

Tips On Making A Swimlane Diagram

- Learn The Standard Symbols And Elements

To carry out the second step quickly and properly, you need to get familiar with the standard symbols and elements used in this tool.

There are four symbols to keep in mind. A chart starts and ends with ovals, used as terminal boxes. A rectangle represents the processes. When you reach a decision, put it in a rhombus. Finally, connect all the shapes with arrows to complete the tool.

- Process And Sub-Processes

You need to know the difference between a process and a sub-process to place them in the right lanes.

- Review And Refine

Reviewing is always necessary to open up a path for greater efficiency. Therefore, once you finish your chart, take time to review it and find out if any processes are taking too long or any shortcomings are still left.


A swimlane flowchart is a graphical representation of the steps in a process. It divides the process into sections to show which steps are done by different people or departments and what information flows between them. The swimlane flowchart is so named because it divides the process into areas representing different lanes, and the flow of information between steps is represented by arrows drawn on the lanes.

Swimlane flowchart makes it easy to monitor performance and identify issues that may arise due to lack of communication or handoffs between team members.

If you want to create swimlane type flowchart, then you can use our tool Zen Flowchart.