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Unexpected Benefits of Value Stream Mapping

Not Just a Pretty Picture

Creating a current state value stream map (also known as a business process map for office based value streams) is the first step for TXM Lean Consultants when we tackle a new program or start on another area with an existing client. The value stream mapping process allows us to see the entire process we are investigating on one (large) sheet of paper, including customer requirements, suppliers, scheduling information, central computer processes and all informal ways of doing business each day. But this process is more than just creating a pretty, colourful picture or cool printouts to cover your War Room walls – there are several benefits that we find each time we get a cross functional team together. These unexpected benefits occur regardless of the type of industry or level of the organisation that we are working with. Here we will discuss the three unexpected benefits of creating a value stream map.

Bringing people together for a conversation about the business

A strong feature of the TXM approach to values stream mapping includes demanding a cross functional team to participate in the VSM process – we even like the customer and supplier to be represented. If that isn’t practical, Sales and Purchasing representatives are a good stand-in. Our favourite part of value stream mapping process is the “a-ha” moments when the team members suddenly realise that they thought they fully understood the value stream but realise they only understood it from their perspective, not the full picture of what it takes to provide the customer with a value added product or service.

Producing a piece of work done as a team, with a common goal

As the team goes through the VSM process it forges bonds across departments and results in a piece of work, done collaboratively with a common goal. We would like to think that, in business, everything we do during our workday is with a common goal that benefits the company and fits with its values, but we all know that sadly isn’t always the case – departments may have different interests or individual targets may not align with team goals. Developing a value stream map creates a common understanding and cements in the project goals with the people that helped to make it. Being open to other ideas and listening for understanding to our fellow team members all contributes to a solid, value stream based foundation for the improvement project.

 Providing a centre piece for future conversations and communications

Once the value stream map is completed, it becomes a central piece to hold conversations around. As many of us in the manufacturing industry prefer visual information over our other senses, it feeds that need and provides a stepping stone to creating a common understanding about the business as well as the value stream itself. As the map is used to develop a vision for the future of the company it can be used to communicate to the wider company about what has been achieved, discovered, considered and decided to act upon. It is a powerful tool to educate others and help them feel part of the change process as it unfolds.

When you are considering your team for your next value stream mapping activity, remember that there are many benefits in addition to just a colourful map, so give those key people a chance to participate in this important process.