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Flowing Through A Value Stream: Don’t Block The Pipes


Value Stream is a term used to describe the activities which have to take place in order to transform a consumer request into a product or service. When I imagine this, I think back to Augustus Gloop. Yes.

Augustus Gloop, the little boy from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, who fell into the chocolate river, and was sucked up into the factory’s pipes. You may wonder why that is, but, for me, it makes perfect sense.


In the book, and the film adaptations, Gloop drinks from the chocolate river, and Charlie and the other children observe that there is a pipe that descends from a machine above them, to drain the river of some of its chocolate. This happens seamlessly prior to Augustus falling in, however, once he is in the river, he is treading viscous water, trying not to drown, overwhelmed, but, just about, staying with his head above the surface.


That is when the pipe descends and begins to drain the river of more chocolate, and, along with the chocolate, goes Augustus.


When there is a delay in production, whether it be because a department is overwhelmed with other WIP projects, or tasks, and your work simply gets placed on a pile, you find yourself stuck in a scenario where the pipes are no longer flowing seamlessly. Because, like in the story, there is something blocking the chain.


Eventually a backlog of chocolate, with mounting pressure thrusts Augustus through the pipe and to the other end. Just like when the obstacle is finally tackled, the project can finally resume.


Being able to reduce extraneous projects that do not provide the same value to customer experience, or revenue for the corporations, is like having successfully plucked Augustus from the river before he became a blockage.


It is the same with communication and cohesion within a workplace. During her talk about Value Stream Mapping, Karen Martin explained that department heads often attempt to shirk the blame for delays elsewhere, by potentially overloading whoever works the next stage of the development process with the work. Often, if there is an absence of communication between departments, work needs to be redone, due to errors needing to be fixed, and the work may find itself back in the pile waiting days, weeks or maybe even months to reach the top of the to-do list.


So, along with trying to keep the entire value stream following the tides; it is essential to assure that extraneous works in progress are removed, to ease the flow of the process. If it can wait, and be left aside to provide extra support to a costly project that may cost significant amounts through the delay, you should let it wait on the wayside.


Mik Kersten explained that it is not uncommon for people to feel obligated to “stay in [their] lane[s]” as to avoid stepping on their colleagues’ toes. However, being able to break through dams, remove obstacles in the way, may appear like overstepping, but, will ultimately boost proactivity within the value stream.



For further reading on value streams you can read our blog post: Too Many Cooks Won’t Spoil This Broth.



Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (www.TheAgileWorks.com), is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.


He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.


The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.


To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address: arvind@theagileworks.com

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