The Value of Value Stream Mapping

A number of places I’ve been to have a value stream map hanging somewhere already.  Often the map has been hanging there for a good while…several years in some cases. Now, I’m a big fan of VSM’s, so I wonder how so many get made up but so few get put to use.  I’ll often ask about the map and generally get a vague answer about “not getting around to doing anything with it”.

I think there are several reasons why this happens.  First, I think at least a few of those maps were developed by a consultant or, maybe, the local “resident expert” and handed to the client.  And, so…no buy in.  The folks who are managing the value stream have to participate in developing the map.  In my experience, the development of a VSM is “labor intensive” and takes lots of consideration and discussion.  This discussion leads to insights and ideas about improvements to the value stream that can’t be obtained any other way.

Second, whether the VSM was developed by an “expert” or by the management team, there isn’t enough discussion of the transition plan:  How are we going to get from the value stream we have to the value stream we want?  Again, this takes a good deal of discussion.

Third, there’s often a lack of follow through.  The changes that might be portrayed on a future state VSM just don’t get implemented.

The value of the value stream map, then, isn’t so much the map itself as it is the process for getting it.  The discussions that take place to develop the maps (current state and future state) and to develop the transition plan provides the energy and impetus to get things done.