What Is Value Stream Mapping?

Introduction To Value Stream Mapping

According to the IIBA:

Value stream mapping is used to provide a complete, fact-based, time-series representation of the stream of activities required to deliver a product or service to the internal or external customer.

The Agile Extension to the BABOK Guide further breaks this down between the strategy horizon and the initiative and delivery horizons as follows:

Strategy Horizon

Used to understand the creation of value across the whole customer experience to prioritize, plan, and integrate the creation of value and reduction of waste between initiatives across the portfolio.

Initiative & Delivery Horizon

Used to identify the portions of a problem or solution and identify what their ability is to alter the value of the affected item or process.

Value stream mapping (VSM) is essentially a lean or agile tool to identify waste, reduce process cycle times, and implement process improvements. It’s a tool for organizations wanting to plan, implement and improve while on its lean/agile journey.

The "value stream" portion of VSM focuses on how value can be added to a product or service by changing the function to meet the customers’ needs. This includes adding features and functionality to the product or service to benefit the customer.

The Prepare Element

Preparing for the value stream mapping exercise involves getting your team together. You want to include a very diverse number of roles as possible so the team is cross-functional. Generally speaking, the business analyst is the facilitator and an owner of the process should be assigned. The goal is to define the scope and identify the value of the process or product.

Analyze The Current State Element

In this phase, you look at the items within the current state processes that are causing process delays, constraints, excessive downtime and/or inventory issues.

You will want to use root cause analysis to visualize to remove waste in the current state processes. In doing so, you will create the future state process that improves processes and eliminates non-valuable steps.

Implement Process Improvement Element

At this point, you are ready to start creating the backlog items. You will want to add prioritized issues identified by the VSM to the impediments backlog. You can use value stream mapping in conjunction with Balanced Scorecards and Portfolio Kanban.

Strengths Of Value Stream Mapping

  • More comprehensive than process flow diagrams
  • Easy to read maps
  • Provide a universal language
  • Provide a blueprint for implementing improvement
  • Decision-makers can visualize the current state

Limitations Of Value Stream Mapping

  • Requires more effort to create
  • Do not exaggerate with making the current state map perfect
  • Does not work well in non-linear initiatives

In product development, VSM can reveal inefficiencies in idea production, including feedback loops and rework. It can help reduce the number of steps and the amount of rework.

With proper implementation, VSM fosters a culture of continuous improvement that has been proven effective in product development. The map shows the outcomes of the value stream analysis, providing a visual tool to facilitate understanding and communication.

Value stream mapping also improves team culture because productive teams are more engaged and are fun to work with. Since culture, productivity, and savings are some of the payoffs, VSM should be near the top of your single prioritized backlog.

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