Why use both a RACI Matrix with a Swim Lane Diagram?

Why use both a RACI Matrix with a Swim Lane Diagram?

Why use both a RACI Matrix with a Swim Lane Diagram?

Both a RACI Matrix and a Swim Lane Diagram can be used to improve project team communications.  Often project managers use either one or the other of these tools, to improve communications, both tools can be used together to improve coordination for projects.  The hand off between department/teams is when the project risk is greatest.


A RACI matrix is a chart that outlines the roles for departments and teams.  RACI stands for: Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. To create a RACI for your project, identify all of the key tasks.  If you completed a WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) for your tasks, you can use the tasks for your WBS.  For each task assign a role and responsibility by team.
Create a table that has the department/team by column and the tasks from your WBS as rows.  Once you have created the matrix, fill in with an R, A, C, or I at the intersection point of the matrix to denote the role of the team/department for each task (example below).
  • Responsible: This is the person who has to accomplish the task.
  • Accountable: The person who has to ensure the task is done and approve that the task was completed to standard.
  • Consulted: Stakeholders with opinions or advice on the task.
  • Informed: Those that need to know the status and progress.

Double check to make sure that you only have one team/department accountable and one team/department responsible for each task. You may find that multiple teams/departments need to be informed and consulted, this includes informing your project sponsor.

Swim Lane Diagram

A swim lane diagram is a unique type of process flowchart.  The purpose of a swim lane diagram is depict a process from beginning to end and capture the responsible team/department for each task.

This is very similar to what a project manager accomplishes when creating a RACI matrix.  Instead of capturing the other stakeholders, a swim lane diagram, only focuses on the responsible party.

To create a swim lane diagram, list the teams/departments along the top of the chart.  Each task should be identified and draw under the team/department that is responsible.
  • Circles: Represent start and stop points.
  • Diamonds: Represent a decision point (these should come from your milestones on your WBS).
  • Boxes: Represent tasks (these should come from your WBS).
  • Arrows: Connect each type of activity together.

Swim lanes show processes and depending on the detail level of your WBS, there might be a swim lane diagram required for each task or only for your level one and/or two tasks.

How they work together!

Hand off between project tasks is when your project is at the greatest risk.  Creating both a RACI and swim lane diagram allows your team to see each step and who is responsible.  Each team/department that is responsible, needs to ensure that the team/department that will be responsible next is aware of the task status and any changes to the expected hand over dates.

I recommend creating the RACI first and then the swim lane diagram.  

I hope that this assists you and your project team.

The Project Manager: Life is a Project

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