One of the key elements in a process flow diagram is the diamond shape of a decision branch. When you map out a decision branch without swim lanes, you don't have to identify who makes that decision. You are simply showing that a decision is made at this point, its potential choices and how a choice affects the process. With swim lanes, you have to put that decision object into someone's lane.
When you are in a presentation regarding a swim lane process flow diagram, where that decision object is placed can cause conflict. More often than not, that conflict discussion is of the positive nature (although it may not feel like it at the time). As the stakeholders are debating who gets to make the decision, they are openly discussing aspects about that decision. This is often an explosion of information that many of those stakeholders wouldn't divulge otherwise.
I realize now that I made it sound like this discussion is centered around a power grab. This does happen but I have to say that I often see the opposite. The swim lane owner is more likely trying to shed the responsibility of that decision to someone else and they are trying to avoid it. As they are making their individual cases, they often provide a monolog on why they cannot make that decision. Here you can uncover critical information that would affect that decision point such as ...
• previously unknown stakeholders
• previously unknown internal / external process
• previously unknown regulations
• assumptions, now proved to be false
• constraints you hadn't encountered before
• how a stakeholder really feels about ... well ... a lot of things
For these reasons, I always try to present swim lane process flows in meetings and seldom share them to stakeholders blindly via e-mail or digital drop boxes.
©2015 Dwayne Wright