Improving Business Processes: How to Run a Value Stream Mapping Workshop

Value Stream Mapping (VSM) has its origin in manufacturing, but has been successfully adopted for business processes. Why should IT consider conducting a VSM workshop?

If you answer “yes” to any of the following, a VSM approach would offer critical insights for finding the best path forward:

Does your IT organization develop requirements in silos without taking in consideration the end-to-end business processes?

When collecting business requirements, are the hard questions avoided? The hard questions include: Are we improving our ability to deliver value? Are we removing waste? Will these requirements deliver our product faster, at a lower cost, at the quality level our customers expect? What are the problems we are trying to solve? What are the expected KPI improvements?

Are business requirements for new IT solutions based on current business practices?

If these symptoms sound familiar, you may want to consider charging your IT department with conducting a VSM workshop.

A Value Stream Mapping workshop in action.

Definitions

  • A Value Stream is a sequence of activities an organization performs to address a customer’s request.
  • A customer may be internal or external to the organization.
  • A VSM workshop is a multi-day, cross-functional, interactive session designed to articulate the current flow of information and materials, an ideal future state, and a plan to achieve the future state.

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The Key Elements of Value Stream Mapping

Customer Focus. At the end of the day the customer is the most important entity for each organization. Start with the customer and see what can and should be improved for their benefit.

Strategic Level. A VSM workshop should focus on strategic direction and not get bogged down in the weeds.

Holistic View. Most organizations are a coalition of silos. A VSM workshop breaks down barriers between functional silos to uncover improvement opportunities across the entire value stream of the organization, not just within a discrete area.

Waste Identification. In almost all business processes there is waste. A VSM workshop exposes waste in a process, and provides the visibility and the opportunity to eliminate it.

Metrics. Often there isn’t an awareness of the current performance of a process. The VSM workshop quantifies the current state and sets targets for improvements.

Preparing for a Value Stream Mapping Workshop

There are few prerequisites to planning a VSM workshop that should be done ahead of time:

  • Identify the organization’s Value Streams, also known as core business processes.
  • Prioritize Value Streams based on customer impact and organizational strategy. Pick the one that most meets the organization’s needs.
  • Establish an executive sponsor or champion who can commit to the VSM workshop and provide the leadership necessary to implement the future state.
  • Empower the team to make important changes that will transform the organization to better meet its strategic objectives.
  • Identify an experienced VSM workshop facilitator (internal or external).

With the foundation in place, the VSM workshop can commence.

Executing a Value Stream Mapping Workshop

Step 1. Develop a workshop mandate (charter) which includes scope, problem statement, objectives, and metrics.

Step 2. Produce a detailed agenda (typically over two or three days, 8 hours per day), define participants’ roles, and create a logistical plan.

Step 3. Hold a kick-off meeting with the executive sponsor to review the workshop mandate, logistics, recommended training (depending on organizational maturity), and pre-work assignments to get a head-start on capturing current processes.

Step 4. Final preparations include holding a Q&A session, if required before the workshop, and setting up the space with post-it notes, flip chart paper, and whiteboards.

Step 5. Facilitate the VSM workshop:

a. Day 1: Map out the current state.
b. Day 2: Brainstorm the future state and map.
c. Day 2-3: Identify the improvement opportunities, assign owners, and estimate overall implementation time for each improvement.
d. Produce a daily briefing for executive management.

Step 6. Establish governance and a review cadence to realize the improvement plan.

Deliverables

The deliverables from a VSM workshop are designed to bring about change. These include:

A. Process map of the Current State
B. Process map of the Future State, with improvements highlighted
C. Performance metrics (current and future)
D. Transformation plan to achieve the Future State

Conclusion: IT can run a VSM workshop to deliver more value to the organization

A well-executed VSM workshop with a committed champion can be a game changer for your organization. The outcomes may include reduced lead time and waste, improved customer service and product quality, and increased employee engagement.

Your IT organization is in a unique position to initiate a VSM workshop, given its involvement in business requirements gathering and cross-functional technology projects. If IT builds the capability to plan and execute VSM workshops to enable business transformation, the department can move up the value chain within the broader organization.

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