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Twelve Common Errors with Value Stream Mapping – Part 1

March 3, 2014


HD-103_VSM_DetailWant to know the most common mistakes on Value Stream Maps?

Here is a list I compiled years ago while reviewing or seeing other people’s initial attempts at creating their own Value Stream Maps. I have used it during presentations to help share (yokoten) my experiences and hopefully help others not repeat the mistakes I have seen.

Here we go in no particular order:

  1. Not determining the Product (Process) Family correctly
  2. Not appointing a Value Stream Manager or VS Manager not performing their duties effectively
  3. Maps created by a “team of one”
  4. Not considering items that don’t necessarily show up on the map (Change Management, training, communication, Teams, 5S, etc.)
  5. Not frequently updating the map
  6. Trying to jump to a higher level Building Block (i.e., cells, TPM, Kanban) before the basic Building Blocks in place
  7. Not following the plan
  8. Not having an expert lead the first few events
  9. Not communicating the Value Stream Maps
  10. Calling other tools VSM (“butcher paper”, flowcharts, etc.)
  11. Using software to create maps
  12. Trying to collect too much data or not enough data

Over the next few blog posts I’ll go into a little more detail about each one. Please feel free to comment and let me know your thoughts.

1. Not determining the Product (Process) Family correctly – I think many people skip this step because they either don’t know that they are supposed to do it or they don’t know how to perform it correctly.

I visited a company that asked for help creating a Value Stream Map in their Customer Service area. I knew they had some Lean experience and have created Value Stream Maps before. When I asked them to share their Product Family Matrix, they said “What’s that?” Then I asked them how many different types of complaints they receive from customers? They responded hundreds (no judging please, it’s a large multi-national company to the consumer market). Actually, by creating a Process Family Matrix we discovered that they had six ‘types’ of complaints that had different flows through the process.

When it comes to creating this matrix I actually use the term ‘Process Family Matrix’ to include office areas that don’t traditionally think they have ‘products’.

Another company I worked with made covers for speakers that you’d see in the ceiling of office areas. They told me “we just make holes; we don’t need to do a Product Family Matrix.” I asked them if they would just humor me and go through the exercise. After completing the matrix we discovered that they had ten different Process Families!

By creating this matrix, you will have a better understanding on how your products or services should be grouped together – not necessarily how they currently are processed. In my experience, I have found that if you skip this step everything you do after is challenging; but if you do this (hard) step first, then everything after will be much easier. With practice this step does gets easier.

2. Not appointing a Value Stream Manager or VS Manager not performing their duties effectively – this is a hard one. Over the years I have seen companies attempt to create the ‘position’ of Value Stream Manager, but they seem to fail to grasp the concept. The two most typical scenarios I have seen include the Vice President of Operations saying they he or she would take on that role. That person usually doesn’t have enough time to do their own work let alone taking on a new challenge. At the other end of the spectrum, I have seen companies pick the new engineer to play the role of Value Stream Manager. Unfortunately, this person does not have enough experience to do this job. There needs to be someone in the middle that could fulfill this role. I understand the idea of a Value Stream Manager is very foreign to most organizations and they are unsure how this would work or even if it would fit into their company. One way to move this forward is to appoint a ‘Value Stream Manager’ – someone with enough experience in the company, is well respected and has the organizational skills to perform this role. Have this person focus on helping the teams complete any projects that were selected form the VSM. At this point, it might just seem like project management. It’s a start.

3. Maps 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. Of course you can have one person ‘draw the map’, but you need the input from the people that actually do the work to gather and collect data.

4. Not considering items that don’t necessarily show up on the map (Change Leadership, 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 setting up a 5S System, visual workplace, leader standard work, etc.. 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. So make sure you understand your overall goals and objectives as an organization (like items from catchball in Hoshin Kanri) to see if they fit into your VSM.

Also, other important items like soft-skills (i.e., communication or good change leadership) do not usually show up as an action item on a value stream map but are extremely important while implementing Lean. Don’t forget these items as you create your Future State and plan.

I hope these were helpful. In “Twelve Common Errors with Value Stream Mapping – Part 2” I will cover four more. Let me know what you think.

For more information on Value Stream Mapping, please visit our website www.5Ssupply.com.

Sign up for our free webinar “Value Stream Mapping: Understanding the Current State” with Mike Osterling.

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