Value Stream Mapping
Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a powerful technique that visualises the end-to-end lifecycle of a process and so enables improvements to be identified. By providing a shared understanding of a system’s behaviour a VSM helps people identify the most effective interventions.
VSMs are widely used in manufacturing, however they have a particular benefit in software development, where so much of the end-to-end value stream is not visible. VSMs help to identify bottlenecks and queues in the system and encourage people to focus on the system-level behaviours and not to get pre-occupied with a single element of the system.
We facilitate a workshop over a day or two to create a ’Current State’ VSM that highlights areas of greatest potential for improvement and provides a baseline against which to judge process changes.
We have run workshops in clients like BP and Tesco as well as within smaller groups. The interactive sessions are effectively stimulate a collective realisation of the system-level challenges faced by the organisation, and almost always result in new insights into possible solutions.
These sessions provide stakeholders with a clear picture of how Agile adoption fits within their organisation – and encourages them to engage with the broader challenges of organisational level Agile.
Highlighting the right metrics
VSMs help to focus on the ‘metrics that matter’ i.e. those that show how the overall system is performing and delivering value to users – the primary measure of responsiveness is the cycle time, how long it takes for an idea to go from conception to delivering value to a user?
Another metric that shocks many stakeholders is how little time is spent actually adding value to an idea, compared to how much time it spends waiting for a decision or activity.
Typically we see figures where less than 5% of time is spent adding value. Finding ways to reduce the 95% waiting time may be the most effective intervention you can make to improve the effectiveness of your teams.
Theory of Constraints and VSMs
VSMs also provide a valuable introduction to discussions based on the ‘Theory of Constraints’, which can provide another useful perspective on the system-level improvements.
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