Value Stream Mapping

DPA Insights

Why Value Stream Mapping must include Employee Idea Streaming

By Nancy Kay, Senior Consultant, Daniel Penn Associates LLC

Value Stream Mapping, or VSM, helps all types of companies and organizations define and analyze the flow of materials and/or information from the start point to the end point of a process.

Value Stream MappingSome examples: What are all the ‘touch points’ that happen between the customer’s ordering of a laptop to the delivery of that laptop? What happens between a patient’s entering the hospital for a knee replacement and his discharge with a new knee? Who gets involved, and how, before a customer’s home or life insurance product is activated? Which of these ‘touch points’ add value to the process and the product or service? Which are unnecessary?

Value Stream Mapping gives us the power to figure this out by looking at a visual diagram that represents the process in question. Whether you’re a manufacturing facility, a call center, a creative services firm or a hospital, the VSM diagram is a baseline for your current state and a launching point for your organization’s future ideal state.

“OK”, you’re thinking, “so by using VSM we can help ensure we’re making the best products (or delivering the highest quality services) in the least amount of time at competitive prices. But how do we get our people to buy in…especially if they think change is not needed or that their jobs may fall prey to the process?”

Many people don’t question how things are done. They just do whatever they are trained to do. Why? Because they’re not usually asked to find solutions together. This often results in communications ‘disconnects’: One department may not know that another department is duplicating their efforts. Or, that the other department is waiting for them to complete a task first.

To eliminate this chaos, here are three reasons why Value Stream Mapping must include Employee Idea Streaming:

  1. The best VSM efforts come from the efforts of employees in every area of organization. Ideally, they’ll work as a cross-functional team to map the current state of your process and discuss the pros and cons of each stage. Ideally, they’ll ask the 5 Whys, brainstorm ways to improve the process and get more out of the value stream. Getting all these people together to define and own the new and improved future state process? Priceless.
  2. Documentation + analysis = education and enlightenment. Once employees begin mapping out the company’s ‘current state’ processes, they’re usually amazed at the time required to make the product or deliver the service from beginning to end. They don’t realize where the bottlenecks lie until they create the visual picture. Once the process is laid out on a visual map, they can rearrange and figure out how to ‘smooth the bumps’.
  3. Value Stream Mapping across many products and processes helps employees and management better understand true (and often hidden) business costs. One example: After beginning a VSM process, a company that made a variety of products determined they actually had three different product lines or families. When they broke each product line down and identified the resources required for each, they were able to more accurately compute profitability. By understanding the distinct value streams for each line, they were able to make better business decisions.

When your employees use value stream mapping techniques to brainstorm new ideas, they take ownership of the process improvements, make the organization more efficient and responsive, improve time to market and keep customers coming back.

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