Ever feel like you just can’t see what’s going on? Too many details and too many conflicting viewpoints can make it difficult to see what’s actually happening in a process. Wasteful activities carry on simply because they are unseen and repeated so often that they become “normal”. A very useful tool for looking at processes is the Value Stream Map. On the surface, it’s just a bunch of post-it notes, laying out exactly what’s going on, step by step. The visual element, where every post-it is a process step to be evaluated, simplifies even the most complex or over thought process. Once laid out, the process can be validated by the stakeholders and then you can start to improve it by reducing waste and optimizing the flow.
How exactly do you optimize the flow?
- Ensure you have a single post it for each step including waiting.
- Time each step to see what the worst case and best case looks like.
- List out the problems in each step – Make sure that all the stakeholders have input on identifying the problems.
- Look for ways to improve or mitigate the problems and in doing so, remove waste. Some obvious wastes that often jump out of a value stream map are waiting, unnecessary movement back and forth, unnecessary activities.
- Eliminate unnecessary steps, revise the value stream map and standardize.
The great news is once you have implemented an improved value stream, there is always opportunity to go back and improve it further. Continuous improvement never ends!