A value stream is a set of actions that establish the flow of materials and information, otherwise known as value, required to bring a product or service to a customer. Accordingly, value stream mapping is a lean management technique that businesses can use to illustrate, analyze, and optimize their value stream.
This technique provides a structured visualization of workflows so that project teams can identify opportunities for improvement. By utilizing a value stream map, project teams will be able to better pinpoint and understand where value is added within a process and where it is not.
Value stream mapping uses a system of symbols to depict work streams and information flows within an operational process. Items are placed on the map and labeled according to their ability to add value to the product or service from the customer’s perspective. This visualization technique helps project teams identify and eliminate items that do not add value to the end product, otherwise known as waste activities.
How value stream mapping can benefit your organization
Value stream mapping is one of the most effective process improvement techniques to implement if you want to better understand your business or team and how to enhance overall performance. There are a few ways your organization can benefit from utilizing value stream maps:
Increase the value provided to customers. Value stream mapping not only helps businesses visualize their operational processes and identify waste, but it also helps them deliver more value to customers. A value stream map realigns the focus of project teams to the customer, ensuring that customers’ wants and needs are achieved in the most efficient way possible.
With value stream mapping, businesses can deliver better quality products and services to customers and reduce lead times, resulting in increased customer satisfaction rates.
Improve workflow visualization. Process improvement initiatives are especially difficult to implement when an organization has low visibility into the details of their operational workflows. Value stream mapping provides teams with an accurate depiction of how value flows through a process, what resources are necessary to bring value to a process, and what actions aren’t adding value to a process.
This technique ensures that all project stakeholders are on the same page about how a process brings value to the products and services the organization offers. Value stream mapping also informs teams on how they can improve current business processes, which is the key to successfully carrying out process improvement initiatives.
Align cross-functional teams. It is not uncommon for organizations to become or lose sight of the need for interdepartmental collaboration. Project teams that operate under the same branch within a company may fall victim to tunnel vision, making them unaware of overarching company goals.
Value stream mapping creates a shared understanding of how processes function in their current state and requires input from team members within various departments to improve key workflows. This helps align cross-functional teams with company-wide process improvement initiatives.
Value stream mapping steps
Before identifying a value stream to map, be sure to consider the overarching goals and needs of your organization.
Aligning the objective and scope of process improvement initiatives with company goals will ensure that your workflow optimization efforts are contributing to the success of the business. Once you understand how process improvements aid the achievement of company-wide goals, then you can begin the value stream mapping process.
You can follow these simple steps to create a value stream map and optimize operational workflows within your organization:
Identify the process you want to improve. Now that you understand your organization’s company-wide goals, choose a specific process within your business that can be improved to aid the achievement of those goals.
During this phase, be sure to identify key stakeholders such as project team members that may be involved in the process because you will need their input to make improvements.
Define the objective and scope. Once you have assembled your project team, you should clearly define the objective and scope of your workflow optimization efforts. This includes detailing a specific starting and ending point for the process you are seeking to optimize.
Hold a team meeting and communicate how the objective of this process improvement initiative aligns with company-wide goals. At this stage, you can assign roles and responsibilities to project team members to ensure that the process improvement initiative stays on track.
Develop a current state map. Value stream mapping requires teams to make two types of maps: a current state map and a future state map. The current state map captures the actual condition of a value stream’s material and information flow. This helps teams analyze which activities within a process can be eliminated to optimize operations.
To create a current state map, choose a process mapping template or create one from scratch and begin outlining each step involved in the process. When outlining these steps, be as specific as possible, indicating who is responsible for what tasks, how long each step takes, and how it contributes value to the end product.
Identify key performance indicators for the process, such as lead time for tasks, task processing time, and work-in-progress (WIP), as these will prove valuable when identifying inefficiencies and developing an action plan to carry out process improvements., as these will prove valuable when identifying inefficiencies and developing an action plan to carry out process improvements.
Identify inefficiencies and opportunities for process improvement. This next step focuses on identifying inefficiencies, otherwise known as waste activities, from within the process at hand. Waste activities can be defined as any activity within the process that does not add value. Derived from the lean methodology, there are eight types of waste activities to look out for when seeking to improve a business process:
Defects. Waste produced by a product or service failure.
Overproduction. Waste from producing more product than required, based on customer demand.
Waiting. Time wasted waiting for the next step in the process to occur.
Unused talent. The underutilization of employee talents, skills, or knowledge.
Transportation. Time, resources, and costs wasted by unnecessarily transporting products and materials.
Inventory. Waste from excess products and materials that are not processed.
Motion. Wasted time and effort related to unnecessary employee movement.
Extra-processing. Waste from overworking or producing higher quality work than necessary.
Develop a future state map. Once you have comprehensively mapped out the current state of the process and identified opportunities for improvement, you may begin developing your future state map. This map will look like the current state map but will include all the necessary process improvements identified in the previous phase.
When creating this future state map, it’s crucial to estimate key performance indicators for the implemented changes. This will help your team identify if the process improvements are successful or if the process needs to be optimized further once it is put into action.
Create a plan of action for process improvement. Now that you have mapped out your future state map, you can begin to form a plan to put it into action. Be sure that all project stakeholders are aware of the roles and responsibilities they must carry out to ensure that the process flows smoothly.
When implementing your plan of action, remember to record KPIs such as lead times and task processing times so that you can compare them to your estimations in the previous phase and the KPIs for the original process identified in the current state map. This comparison will let you know if your process improvements are helping or hindering the flow of the value stream throughout the process.
Note that your team may need to complete this process multiple times to yield a desirable or preferred outcome.
How to use MindManager for value stream mapping
The value stream mapping process may seem overwhelming at first, but with the help of mind mapping software, your organization will be able to easily create a functional value stream map and streamline process improvements.
MindManager® is a mind mapping software that provides companies with a variety of customizable templates, such as flowcharts, that can be used for value stream mapping. MindManager also enables users to create their own diagrams from scratch, helping project teams create and share a value stream map that best suits their organizational needs.
Consider using the Kanban board template in MindManager to help visualize your value stream in action. After creating a value stream map using one of MindManager’s flowchart templates, place your value stream into a Kanban board so that project teams can view and analyze workflow tasks as they flow through a process.
To create a value stream map, it’s necessary to solicit process information from various members of your project team. This can be a time-consuming process, especially without the proper tools to support team collaboration. MindManager enables teams to coedit value stream maps simultaneously, enhancing team productivity.
In addition to MindManagerʻs ability to support team collaboration, MindManager also enables teams to link their value stream maps to other project documents. This feature proves useful to project teams that wish to map complex value streams that may require further documentation to explain the specifics of the process at hand.