I’ve all but given up on LinkedIn. A platform that was meant to be a place for managers to network and share ideas has become a warren of congratulatory notes and advertisements. Every so often I run into an interesting discussion like this one about Value Stream Mapping.
Here’s the question that kicks all the back-and-forth off: “Have the TPS Senseis ever done a VSM during a kaizen workshop?” (Talk about your string of lean jargon!
As you read the responses to the original post, you’ll see that bashing VSM’s appears to be a favorite pastime of some lean practitioners: “VSMs are imbecilic.”
A number of others are more charitable.
Like most lean tools, VSM’s are useful…and they can be overdone. Some of the commenters pointed to the many symbols and the rote manner in which VSM’s are developed. Others mention the number of dusty VSM’s adorning the walls of organizations they’ve known. (I’ve seen that myself. I pointed to one such example on the wall of a meeting room at a prospective client. When I said, “I see you’ve done a Value Stream Map,” to the general manager, he replied, “Is that what that is? A consultant we had a couple of years ago put that together. We kind of forgot it was there.”) But those aren’t deficits of the tool itself, they are deficits of the manner in which they’re developed and used (or not used).
First, I’ve never done a kaizen workshop. So I’ve never done a VSM (Value!” Stream Map) as part of one. But I have worked on any number of VSM’s with client teams. I like them. I find that most clients don’t actually know how material and information flow through their organizations, so the development of a map often turns on a lot of “eureka!” and idea bulbs. This is especially true of non-manufacturing processes.
I find that drawing a process map with simple boxes and arrows as a team is describing the flow of work, information, and materials serves as a good “note taking” method. Additionally, a process map is a picture, a map of information and material flow. People like using pictures and maps to understand complex things.
Best of all, getting people together to develop and discuss and Value Stream Map actually changes the culture of an organization. It’s a collaborative process. It’s a sharing process. It’s a creative process. It’s a process that creates empathy and understanding of others in the organization.
So, if you’re one of those folks who don’t seem to like VSM’s much…maybe you’re not developing or using them correctly.