Visualize your workflow with swim lane diagrams

Swim lane diagram creative agency projects

The best way I have found to diagram a project’s work flow is through the swim lane diagram. The swim lane not only tells you the process in a sequential manner, it also indicates roles and responsibilities at each step. These diagrams are a great way to visually explain processes within the organization for both Project Managers and Traffic Managers alike.

Anecdotal explanation of swim lane

Imagine three swimmers (left portion of the diagram above) in three separate lanes. The three swimmers in this fictional contest–Project Manager, Designer, and Production–are the roles within your organization. They each take off from the project start (closed circle) and work toward the finish (open circle at the end). They will invariably pass through gates or milestones (top bar of the diagram) of the project as they progress to the end.

The downside for the creative agency… The diagrams have a Microsoft Visio feel to them: sparse, dry, and extremely left-brained. That is not necessarily the personality profile of the creative agency team member. Typically, creatives are a visually expressive group that have the ability to convey complex ideas into elegant designs. What if the two worlds could meld?

But what if

Wouldn’t it be great if we could communicate project work flows into infographics for each new project? Agencies are ripe with talented individuals that could nail an exercise like this. And, wouldn’t it be a great way to get designers and artists involved in the processes they support?

Project flow as Infographics

Here is the closest example I could find. It is from a provider of process mapping tools called JOGET Workflow. In this infograhic they deconstruct their company’s workflow over time and conclude with a dashboard of metric analysis graphics. Nice work JOGET Workflow!

Thoughts? Do you think there could be value to visually expressing the ins-and-outs of the project lifecycle in the form of an infographic? Or is that pandering to the creatives in our lives? Do you have any examples of this topic in practice? Let me know what you think!

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