To prepare for your Value Stream Mapping training event, make sure that you communicate with not only with the team members, but to other employees too. Specifically mention it to employees that might have a high probability of being interviewed. Since most companies under-communicate with their employees, it is important to get this information out early and in several different formats. One company was very creative and placed posters around the facility announcing the plans for the VSM event. A key to good communication is that you are targeting your audience with a clear message. Since it is not uncommon for companies to think that they have done a good job of communicating when they really don’t; here are a couple of ideas that may help your efforts:

  • Use several channels of communication – don’t think that just because you mentioned it in passing during a monthly meeting that you met your obligation for clear communication. Pick several forms of communication such as: Alerts, Announcements, Articles, Board Meetings, Books, Bulletin Board Posting, Communication Board, Contests, Department Meetings, E-mail, Handouts, Lunch & Learn, Management Meetings, Newsletters, One-on-One Meetings, Paycheck Meetings, Plant-wide Meetings, PowerPoint Presentation, Seminars, Stand-up Meetings, Team Meetings, Videos, internal Website
  • Remember who your audience is – managers and supervisors probably need to know different information than the value-adders. For instance, a manager on the team will need to know how much time he or she will have to spend with the team. Supervisors may need to know who you may be interviewing and how this may affect their schedule or production. Operators or potential interviewees want to know what is this VSM ‘thing’ is about, why they were chosen to be interviewed, how much time will it take and even, will they get in trouble for saying the wrong thing (or telling the truth!).
  • Rate the effectiveness of the communication – just because you think you communicated well, doesn’t necessarily mean you have. Rate the effectiveness of your communication by performing quick audits by casually asking people if they know about the upcoming event. If people say “yes”, then you have probably done well. If they say they no idea of what you’re talking about, then your effectiveness is probably poor.

The key is good, clear, effective communication for all those affected by the VSM training.

If you need items for your VSM training event, check us out at http://www.5ssupply.com/shop/pc/Value-Stream-Mapping-c77.htm

A typical Value Stream Mapping team is made up of about seven people (I found this size works well), mostly managerial or supervisory level. Having a larger group makes it difficult to have everyone walk the flow and gather data. Having a smaller group tends to limit the ability to create a meaningful future state. Have an experience person lead the team and facilitate the first few events until you are comfortable with Value Stream Mapping. That includes bringing in an outside resource like a consultant.

Team members can be drawn from several areas within an organization such as:

  • Production control/scheduling
  • Operations management
  • Key floor leaders/supervisors
  • Information Technology.
  • Materials/logistics/warehousing material handlers
  • Marketing/sales/customer service
  • Accounting/finance
  • Human resources
  • Purchasing/receiving
  • Process/design engineering/engineering
  • Quality
  • Supplier/vendors
  • Internal/external customers

Choose people that are knowledgeable enough about the inner workings of your organization (also having an outsider or new person may be helpful), but the key here is that you trust these people enough to create the future state. Make sure the team fairly represents the scope of your project and that key stakeholders are involved.

Not everyone can be on the team. One of the ways to make up for this is to let people know that they may be interviewed to help with the process. A warning here – if you have 20 people in the customer service department you will probably not interview all 20. My recommendation is to interview someone that has a good working knowledge of the process family and is able to succinctly answer questions.

One of the best VSM events I facilitated included the customer (who was also the supplier of the materials). Many companies wouldn’t dream of letting a customer in to see their operations. This company was above that type of thinking. The most amazing things started to occur when we discovered that the customer/supplier was causing internal problems for this company and that many steps were redundant. This opened up everyone’s eye and discussions on improvement flowed forth.

Sign up for our free webinar “Introduction to Value Stream Mapping” on Thursday, September 29, 2011 and if you need items for your VSM event visit us at www.5Ssupply.com.

– Tony

Many books and articles do a great job explaining Values Stream Mapping especially for a product family, current state map, future state map and implementation plan. What about after you completed your first VSM? You already spent months completing the things on your VSM plan (well, most of them, anyway) so what do you do now? Here are two approaches you can use:

  1. Work on your first Value Stream Map again
  2. Start a second Value Stream Map

Do it again

Working on your original VSM again shows your commitment to continuous improvement. By already harvesting the low hanging fruit this will force you to dig deeper and really apply Lean Thinking to your processes. Most first attempts at VSM aren’t perfect, so this will give you a chance to improve what you have already worked on.

Start a New Map

The second thing you might consider doing is starting on another value stream map for a different Process (a.k.a. Product) Family. You don’t actually have to wait until you have completed the first VSM; it is more of a resource issue. Do you have enough people, time and the budget to start to make changes on another facility level value stream? Or maybe at this point you have discovered that you need to do some more process level maps to make improvements. My advice is to not get too focused one way or another. As soon as someone says we need to map out another process family, I might ask if they need to dive down in a little more detail. If they say that they should focus only on process level maps, I might suggest looking at another process family. The point is to not assume that there is only one right answer. It’s what’s important to the organization.

How to make the transition

This can seem to be daunting for some organizations. It’s not really that hard, you just have to be prepared for it. The first thing to remember is that the success of your first map will have an impact on your second. That is, how well you did completing your plan on the first map will set the stage for your next map.

One way to get ready for Future State 2 is to have a team meeting. Start by reassembling the original VSM team. Perform a review of the map and plan. Although the Value Stream Manager has been updating the map and the plan, it might be useful to do this one more time with the entire team present. Present the facts, current conditions, progress and completed projects or kaizen events. The next thing do is to talk about and capture lessons learned. A “lesson learned” can be a either good feedback or opportunities for improvement for next time. I doubt that anyone starting their very first value stream map is going to be perfect in execution the first time through. We need to learn from this including learning from our mistakes. Don’t be afraid to look at the cold hard truth about how well you did as a team completing your future state. Next, walk the flow again as a team. Focus on looking for waste. Talk with the value-adders to get insights on how things went and how they are going now.

After the walk the team has to make a critical decision; create a Future State for the original process family, start a new Value Stream Map for another process family or both. In my experience, it mostly boils down to resources; do we have enough people and time to start a new map now?

Sign up for our free webinar “Introduction to Value Stream Mapping” on Thursday, September 29, 2011.

For more resources for VSM, click here>> 5S Supply & Value Stream Mapping


During a Value Stream Mapping event a team member asked “Why do we have to walk the flow, we can get the data we need by using our computer system and reports?” Here are seven advantages to walking the flow versus just data dumping in a conference room:

  1. The team gets to hear first-hand from the people who actually do the work and their perception of the status of their task.
  2. The team sees all the hand-offs and distances traveled just to get an order through your system.
  3. It gives you another chance to look for and see waste in your operations.
  4. It gets the people (value-adders) involved, their opinions are heard, and builds buy-in.
  5. It is a great way to verify management’s idea of what’s going on versus what is actually going on.
  6. The team gets to walk the entire distance and possibly see opportunities for improvement in layout; this may be a good time to draw a “spaghetti diagram”.
  7. It allows team members to become more familiar with areas that they do not normally visit in their daily routines

During this process of training the team will interview the people who perform the task to gather data and information. When you perform the interview, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Remember, people may be nervous when they see a troop of people marching towards them with clipboards. The best thing to do is to communicate with people in advance that you will be visiting them to gather information for your Value Stream Mapping project. If it is not possible to contact the individuals ahead of time, another alternative may be to communicate to the entire staff via newsletter, bulletin board, departmental meetings or other means that a VSM event will be performed.

Sign up for our free webinar “Introduction to Value Stream Mapping” on Thursday, September 29, 2011.

For more resources for VSM, click here>> 5S Supply & Value Stream Mapping

It’s pretty easy to see how Value Stream Mapping helps out in operations planning or short-term planning (one year or less time-frame). But what about using VSM for strategic or long term planning?

Here are two answers for that:

  1. Create Extended Level Value Stream Map
  2. Create Ideal State Value Stream Map

As you get better in your lean thinking, you will discover that involving your customers and suppliers is the right thing to do. Using your Extended Level VSM can help tailor your strategic long term or Hoshin plan to help improve your market position. Seeing what is important to your customers and suppliers by getting them involved in your Extended Level VSM focusing on a longer time frame (three to five years) will help build a solid strategic plan. This, of course, means getting top management from the supply chain actively involved. Another way VSM can help strategic planning is to create an Ideal State Map for a value stream. Create an ideal Future State that is about five years out. This will help determine “breakthrough” strategies as part of your strategic planning.

Some organizations are seeing the benefit of using Hoshin Kanri as their primary strategic planning and execution process. It might seem a little “chicken and the egg” to say should we have our Value Stream Maps first to help direct our planning efforts or should our planning efforts drive our maps? Well. The simple answer is “yes”. Part of Hoshin is to review previous plans including Value Stream Maps. Once a strategic vision is set VSM can help drive the right projects to help achieve the future state.

Join us for a Free Webinar – Introduction to Value Stream Mapping September 29, 2011

Here’s Part 2 of my list of 12 common mistakes when Value Stream Mapping.

Through my experience over the years I have seen many things go awry when creating Value Stream Maps. Here is a condensed list of twelve of the most common problems that I have seen. The point here is not to repeat these same mistakes, but to learn from them. For Part 1 click here>> 12 Common Errors or Lessons Learned with Value Stream Mapping – Part 1

7. Not following the plan

This is a huge problem. We take all the time and trouble to create the plan and then we don’t even follow it. What a waste! There was a company that created their plan and decided to do other things that popped-up during the next six months. They stayed in their old mode of “fire fighting” instead of using the plan to improve the value stream. They even decided to redo the office (not on the plan) with new furniture instead of focusing on the more important projects from the plan.

On my first training VSM, we were asked to facilitate an event for a company on a specific process/product family. A year later they asked us to come in and facilitate another VSM event. When we asked what they did with the first VSM they created. Their response was “not much.” We declined the offer to work with a company that wasn’t serious about lean. On a side note, while driving by that company a few years later, they were gone; literally – the whole building was demolished.

8. Not using a proper VSM conventions and symbols (i.e., using “butcher paper”, flowcharts, etc. and calling them a value stream map)

Not a real Value Stream Map - sticky notes and 100 boxes

This is where I see people calling things value stream maps that are not drawn and performed in the correct methodology. They might be “value stream maps” in spirit, but they are not following the true Value Stream Mapping (material and information flow) techniques created by Toyota.

One of the most common things to see is people using the brown butcher paper down an entire wall of the room with different color-coded post-it notes for every single step in a process (sometimes there are hundreds of steps symbolized by a post-it note) and they call this their value stream map. Wow! That was a lot of work, now they have every step down to the nitty-gritty detail, but it is so over-whelming that they become paralyzed in trying to make any improvements. Follow the four step process and use high-tech tools like 11” x 17” (A3) paper, pencil and a BIG eraser.

My other issue is when consultants or trainers want to use post-it notes or software to create maps for their clients. I got sucked into this mode for a little while, but realized that I was causing more harm than good. When I discuss this with my consultant friends, they usually say it’s easier to train people this way. I ask “easier for whom?” It’s usually easier for the trainer, but it is not truly giving your participants the chance to learn VSM. Besides, if you think about the real nature of VSM being on an A3 piece of paper, it’s portable, you can have stand-up discussions with people regarding the VSM, and you can quickly and easily make changes with an eraser.

One more thing, stop putting red, yellow and green dots on process boxes that are non-value added (NVA), non-value added-but required and value added (VA). I’m not sure who invented this technique (they probably had good intentions), but I think this is one of the worst things you can do. When facilitating a team, it is hard enough to make sure you are getting buy-in and active participation. How would you like it if someone put a red dot on your process box that basically says you’re non-value added? I know it’s about the process and not the people, but you shouldn’t be turning people against the VSM process. I have found that the teams can easily identify what is VA vs. NVA, you don’t have to call it out for them.

9. Not having an expert lead the first few events

The reason I say this is because people read books on VSM or even attend a seminar or workshop on VSM and then all of a sudden there are experts in VSM. Most books and training have to use case studies to present the ideas of Value Stream Mapping. In most instances, these are overly-simplified processes. To be fair, I do this too during training or seminars because there is usually not enough time to do a whole, real map and these maps are hard to see when projected up using PowerPoint. Real maps are much more complex. For instance a case study may show a few process steps for the information flow and a few for the material flow, but in real life there may be many process boxes used to represent the value stream. A person that has drawn several maps can help determine for process families with the team, teach the team the correct way to draw the maps and in general facilitate a successful event. Since every value stream map is different, having a Value Stream Mapping Champion (subject matter expert) lead and teach value stream mapping to the others will produce superior results for now and for subsequent maps that the team creates on their own in the future.

10. Not communicating and posting maps in areas for employees to see

Question: “Where are your maps?” Wrong answer “In my desk drawer.” Correct answer “Posted on our Lean Communication Board.”

Don’t hide the maps. One of the key benefits of displaying your value stream maps on an A3 is to communicate what is going to happen at your organization over the next few months or year. Many people resist change because of the fear of the unknown. If you post the maps with the plan it will remove or reduce this fear. Also, it is a way to start discussions to get buy-in and ideas for improvement. Don’t hide your maps, be proud of them!

11. Relying on software to create maps – instead of learning to do it by hand first

There are some great software programs out there that will help you draw value stream maps and perform many data manipulations. In my opinion, learn to draw it by hand first. You’ll understand the system better. I don’t see any real value-added activity in software, but if you have to have it make sure you are using it for good reasons and not just to make your maps look prettier. Many of the calculations can be done on a spreadsheet without any fancy software manipulations. I had one company that insisted that their maps be done on software because they wanted to present them to their board. I thought that the board should be more impressed with what they did with the maps and plan then how they look.

12. Trying to collect too much data or not enough

I tend to fall towards the notion that we can gather the data during our walkthrough and if we collect more information than we think we need, that’s o.k. I would rather have extra information where the team can decide if it has an impact later versus having to send people back out to collect data. This might sound anti-lean, but it isn’t. This will make your task of creating the maps much easier. We don’t want to get into analysis paralysis. Just jot down a few quick notes and see if you need that information later.

I’m sure if I thought about it I could come up with more, but I think this is a good jumping off point. Please don’t repeat these same mistakes. Also, when you perform and use your Value Stream Maps think of waste (or muda). This may seem obvious to the lean practitioner, but I am thinking of a different kind of waste. I have seen too many times when people get enamored with their own bureaucracy or analysis when it comes to VSM, that they are just wasting valuable resources – especially time. I’m talking about the people who spend too much time making fancy graphs from the data that was collected, or the ones that want to get the data down to the one-hundredth decimal-point. Remember what you are trying to do here – eliminate waste, not create more!

Let me know you thoughts. – Tony

P.S. Sign up for our free webinar “Introduction to Value Stream Mapping” on Thursday, September 29, 2011.

P.P.S. For more resources for VSM, click here>> 5S Supply & Value Stream Mapping

Through my experience over the years I have seen many things go awry when creating Value Stream Maps. Here is a condensed list of twelve of the most common problems that I have seen. The point here is not to repeat these same mistakes, but to learn from them. I will present the first six in this post and the rest in a later update.

1. Not determining the process families incorrectly or at all

Basically, companies want to skip this step because they are not sure how to do it, they think their processes are overly simple when they are not, or they think it is too hard to do. Do not skip this step! If you do, you may be setting yourself up for failure by trying to bite off more than you can chew. When you complete this step, you’ll also have completed the first step of creating a work cell (for manufacturing or office). Even if you are doing a process level VSM I highly recommend performing this step. While mapping complaints in a customer service department we discovered that there were six different types or streams through the work area. Don’t assume you already know all your value streams.

2. Not having a Value Stream Manager or the Value Steam Manager doesn’t do his or her job

If you do not appoint the appropriate person to be the value stream manager, the maps and plans may languish in the ether. As Will Rogers once said “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” I’ve seen organizations trying to apply the concept of a Value Stream Manager without really putting the appropriate amount of thought behind the concept. For example, a VS Manager needs to work across multiple departments without having direct authority over those areas. To answer this issue, I’ve witness a Vice President of Operations take on the role of VS Manager. When I asked him if he actually had time to take on this role, he added he did not. On the other extreme, I’ve seen a company that took the newly hired young engineer and put him in the role of VS Manager. He lacked the experience and knowledge of the organization to be effective in this role.

3. The map is created by a team of one

Having one person create the map means you only used one brain and two hands. The information gathered may be biased or even worse – incorrect. We are trying to make decisions for what is best for the entire value stream and that is hard to do with only one person. Make sure you use a good cross-functional team to walk the flow, gather the information and then draw the map.

4. Not considering things that might not typically show up on the map like change management, training, communication, team building, 5S, etc.

Even though the maps will give us great information and insights for improvement, they typically do not have other enterprise-wide initiatives that an organization should undertake during its Lean journey such as 5S workplace organization and standardization. What I am trying to say is that a company needs to have 5S everywhere and value stream maps may only show an area or process that needs 5S, not the entire facility. Also, other important functions like communication or good change management do not usually show up as an action item on a value stream map but are extremely important while implementing Lean.

5. Trying to jump to a higher level building block of Lean (i.e., Cells, TPM, or Kanban, etc.) before the basic building blocks are in place.

An example of this is trying to create a manufacturing cell when basic concepts such as 5S, Standard Work or teamwork are not even present in an organization. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t jump to a more complex tool right away, I am saying, in my experience, that you will have a higher probability for success and get better results if you have the basic concepts already started. This also goes for Lean concepts like Pull Systems and kanban, Total Productive Maintenance or Just-in-time (JIT).

I mentioned the concept of starting with the basics during a 5S event at a company before trying to do more complex things like kanban. During a break an engineer Nikki came up to me and she said “Tony, we already have kanban.”  I asked how it was going. She said “Not so good.” After our discussion we discover that it was obvious that they had not developed the discipline with the value-adders to pull the kanban cards and place them in the correct spot. I mentioned to her that a good 5S program, visual controls and Standard Work helps sets the stage for the discipline needed to have a successful kanban card system.

6. Not updating the map

One of my favorite questions received while presenting during a conference was “How often should we be updating our maps?” I replied “Basically, whenever there is a change, probably once a week or at least once a month.” There was a long pause and then the person said “I guess we are a little behind.” I asked “When was the last time you updated your map?” He said “Two years ago.” There was a big roar of laughter from the crowd. Obviously we need to keep the maps updated. For one reason it is easy to do if you use paper and pencil and also remember that we use these maps to communicate. If you don’t show your progress, you are not communicating effectively.

Have you run into these issues before? What did you do to correct them? Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks – Tony

P.S. At 5S Supply this month we are highlighting Value Stream Mapping. Join us for a Free Webinar – Introduction to Value Stream Mapping, September 29, 2011