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. A Value Stream Map is equally, a term used to describe the process of outlining the process undergone by a company to produce the good or service for the consumer.
This idea was originally proposed in 1999 by Mike Rother and John Shook in their book, Learning To See. However, it was much more recently explored by Karen Martin and Mike Osterling in their 2013 book Value Stream Mapping.
In the book, the pair identify that the process of value stream mapping has to occur at the top-end of a workforce, by leaders, practitioners, and consultants. There is no use involving managers and supervisors in this process. They identify that this process is essential; looking at strategy before tactics, meaning a team engaging in this activity will have to look at the bigger picture, before they decide the nitty gritty details. In producing a value stream map, Martin stresses the importance of looking at the macrocosm before the microcosm; the bigger picture is much more important at the beginning than the other processes.
Process-Level Mapping is the process of value stream mapping that people are most familiar with; it is generally a tactical form of mapping, while value stream mapping provides organisations with the opportunity to put strategy first; an example provided by Martin in her webinar introducing the book was the idea of having three places she could go on a trip, and she wants to make a decision about where to go on this trip. Does she want to go to Portland, Oregon? Does she want to go to Chicago Illinois? Or, does she want to go to Houston, Texas? Setting the direction of where you wish to go, was deemed “critical” by Martin in order to make improvements.
Once she had made the theoretical decision to go to Chicago, Illinois, another decision needed to be made; what route would she take? For this particular example, she found herself unable to choose between I 80, I 40 or I 70 to get from San Diego, California to Chicago Illinois. The idea of a value stream map would mean that she would not need to make the drive and be unsure of which route to take throughout the journey, because it is already laid out in front of her, saying yes, she will drive via the I 80 to get to Chicago.
But, why does it have to be the leaders who decide what direction you drive your organisation in? If you were on a road trip with your friends, surely you would all get a say in the route you take. However, in a company, it is only the one in the driver’s seat that gets to make that decision. This is because, it is the leaders, top figureheads within a company are the ones with the power, the influence etc. to make significant change in an organisation. Their choices influence the path that the organisation takes; they get to change the name of their company, if they want to, they get to change the logo if they want to, they get to change the direction a company takes now, and in the future, if they want to. They get to decide. Not the people beneath them.
Those at the head of an organisation can direct change with less resistance from colleagues. Mapping at the top end of a company means that an organisation can steer itself from the top down. Working from the midpoint is much harder; as you can’t guarantee that those above you will necessarily agree with the direction you wish to travel in.
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.
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