4 Tips For Leading Your First Value Stream Mapping Event

Experienced lean leaders acknowledge that the path of continuous improvement is never ending. Building upon a 100+ year-old foundation, our careers are shaped by countless hours in meeting rooms or at the Gemba - tackling problems that are as diverse as the industries and people we serve. But what about lean's newer leaders? 

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For some of us it may be hard to remember our first exposure to lean implementation - when we were first faced with the challenges of bridging theory with operational reality.  For those that are first tasked with bringing visibility to material and information flow, what's the best way to engage in value stream mapping? What are the best practices we can use to alleviate the fear and intimidation of leading our first cross-functional value stream mapping event?

From personal experience, the following four simple tips gave me confidence to lead these value stream mapping events and uncover true operational realities. 

Gather people who understand and can represent the processes in the value stream.

It’s amazing what can result from a value stream mapping event when you bring together the individuals that execute all of the different supply chain processes.  It’s can be awkward at first; in many cases, these people haven’t been in the same room together to discuss the processes in years. But after the first post-its are stuck to the paper you'll start to gain momentum and the value stream will essentially take form with limited involvement from the leader.

Read the tried-and-true literature.

Learning to See, co-authored by four lean veterans through the Lean Enterprise Institute, is a step-by-step workbook that introduced value stream mapping to the world, and has been translated into 16 different languages. 

"In plain language and with detailed drawings, this workbook explains everything you will need to know to create accurate current-state and future- state maps for each of your product families and then to turn the current state into the future state rapidly and sustainably."

Building a Lean Fulfillment Stream, co-authored by LeanCor CEO Robert Martichenko also through the Lean Enterprise Institute, will make you re-think your supply chain and logistics as a means to drive maximum customer value at minimum total cost.

"Building on the concepts of waste, flow, and pull, this pioneering workbook illustrates how to analyze the traditional supply chain as a flowing stream of products and information. Building a Lean Fulfillment Stream provides the steps to a comprehensive, real-life implementation process for optimizing your entire fulfillment stream from raw materials to customers. Using clear examples, the workbook gives practical insights into two critical supply chain concepts:
1)  Calculating the total cost of fulfillment 
2)  Collaborating across all functions and firms along the fulfillment stream."

Observe other lean leaders.

Utilize senior leaders as sources for inspiration. Listen to their past experiences. Ask what requirements must be in place to run a successful event. Ask what they've learned along the way.

Understand which metrics will drive actionable solutions.

The measurements for success for one value stream mapping project will likely be different than others, so identifying and quantifying which of the eight wastes need to be targeted up front will drive action that yields the right results. 

Developing your own best practices for leading a value stream mapping event takes time. Until you've gained this experience, merely focusing on getting the right people in the room will be a step in the right direction. Approach each event with enthusiasm and a positive attitude, and eventually the assembled team will create the majority of the content as you facilitate discussion through the current and future states. 


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Posted by John Szoke

John brings 15 years of hands-on supply chain experience to his role as a Lean Deployment Executive. In his current position, John works with organizations on end to end consulting projects to understand and advance their supply chains, using the lean supply chain principles to identify waste in processes and develop sustainable improvements. John has held various roles in logistics operations management in repetitive manufacturing environments and is an experienced lean trainer. At LeanCor, John has been responsible for leading comprehensive lean supply chain transformations for various complex organizations -- from Fortune 500 companies through small regional manufacturers. He uses an interactive approach to understand and resolve current state adverse conditions while developing future state roadmaps to guide organizations through the next several years of collaborative lean supply chain execution.

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