The Value Stream Map Is Not the End Game – It’s About Improvement

"The behavior of the system doesn’t depend on what each part is doing, but on how each part is interacting with the rest." – Peter Senge

Successful lean leaders are process and value-stream thinkers. Lean leaders understand that a product or service- provider’s value proposition comes from a series of process steps that create the product(s) or service(s) and that these process steps work most efficiently (doing things right) and effectively (doing the right things) where there are no silos or walls between them. Each step and each function participates in flowing streams that create value – value streams. Silos disrupt the flow of value and create waste.

To understand the current state of any value-stream it is necessary for lean leaders to:

  • Choose one part and product to study, in order to learn more about typical value-stream problems and potential improvements.
  • See and agree what is happening as the chosen part and product flow through the value-stream.

Planning a Value Stream Mapping Event

Mapping teams may want more time for a mapping event, based on the size, complexity, and other factors of their value stream, but try to limit activities to three days. A three-day mapping event is typically enough time to accomplish the following:

  • Day 1: Map the current state, identify problems, and calculate the total cost of fulfillment.value stream
  • Day 2: Apply guiding principles to the map, explore problems, brainstorm ideas, and map the future state.
  • Day 3: Perform a gap analysis of differences between the current and future states and begin to develop an improvement plan.

Discover - Completing a current state map will reveal the interconnected nature of the value-stream – how actions in the one area affect others, and how problems in one location could drive up costs in another.

See the Big Picture - During the mapping exercise, some members of functional area may want to jump to solutions to fix specific problem areas. They’ll understand that making changes to improve efficiency and reduce costs have to be based on the total fulfillment stream.

Culture Change - Part of the work that begins after mapping is that your teams thinking has to change from, I work only for myself and/or my department, to We all work in the same value stream within the same organization. Lean leaders understand that this can be a difficult transformation for some employees because it requires maturity, flexibility, and humility.

Next Steps – Lean leaders recognize that as important as a value stream map is, it is just a tool. Improvement requires action. When everyone has agreed to the current state and future state maps, it is time to decide the next step using the map as a guide. The gaps between the current state and the future state are the guides, and the A3’s and problem solving are the tools.

value stream


Summarized from the workbook Building a Lean Fulfillment Stream written by Robert O. Martichenko and Kevin von Grabe and the book People: a leader’s day-to-day guide to building, managing, and sustaining lean organizations written by Steve Gran, Robert O. Martichenko, Walt Miller, and Roger Pearce.


Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

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LeanCor Supply Chain Group is a trusted supply chain partner that specializes in lean principles to deliver operational improvement. LeanCor’s three integrated divisions – LeanCor Training and Education, LeanCor Consulting, and LeanCor Logistics – help organizations eliminate waste, drive down costs, and build a culture of continuous improvement.

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