Google “value stream map” and you’ll get about 5 million hits. You can read as much as you want on it, but the only way to truly learn is by doing one – and in my experience, you learn more with each new map. Learning to See, co-authored by lean guru John Shook, gave our MBOE students this past week a prime on the value stream map, and in class, they learned much more about the five components to one: Customer, Supplier, Process Steps, Process Metrics and Information Flow.

So why should one care about mapping a value stream? For starters, it helps you answer a ton of questions about what you do day in and day out. Just a sample:

  • Are you producing to takt (customer demand), creating more than is needed or you are so slow?
  • How are you balancing supply with demand?
  • Do you have too many, too few or just the right amount of people doing the work?
  • Are there wastes in the process?
  • Are people undergoing unnecessary movements to get materials or information to do the work?
  • How do all the steps communicate with each other?

A value stream map gives you a snapshot of your process in a given time period. It tells you how much of the process you are studying is actually value adding. It might be shocking for someone mapping the first time to find out that more than 90% of the work they do is non-value added.

Here’s an example of that: Executive in Residence Gary Butler this past week told of his first encounter with MBOE Sensei Paul Kerry, a coach in our program. Kerry asked Butler and his executive team to tell him about their expenses, and Butler explained it by making the drawing above.

Kerry turned around and drew what he said was the reality of the business, which you’ll see below. A value stream map gives you a new lens through which you can look at your business. And what you see isn’t always pretty.



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