How to avoid making Value Stream Mapping Wallpaper

Value Stream Map

In some conference room or office area in your factory, there is most likely a piece of decorative brown paper on the wall covered in sticky notes. It’s probably covered in numbers and funny words like takt and FIFO. There may also be a date on it from 3 years ago. This wallpaper likely wasn’t a conscious interior design choice. At some point, an energetic team consisting of some engineers, operators, supply chain and operations leaders stood around this wall with a lean toolkit and a hope for the future. Weeks later, the hope and energy faded. The enthusiastic team from the shopfloor, supply chain and operations went back to their day jobs of fighting fires and the value stream map was left to collect dust. What happened?

At some point in its lean journey, every company ends up generating some value stream map wall paper. Before we discuss some ways to avoid this scenario, let’s envision a different one.

The value stream mapping team stands around the brown paper on the wall sharing the ideas with their operations and program directors. The operations director asks “Is your process stable enough to have a FIFO lane there?” – a challenging and thoughtful question. The team reflects, discusses and adjusts their action plan. The team meets a week later to review their value stream map with a greater audience of other key stake holders like operators and planners. The team sets up weekly meetings to check on actions and results. The CI facilitator offers training, additional tools, templates and good practices from other sites to the team as they implement their FIFOs and pull systems. The steering committee invites them in on a monthly basis to check progress, coach and recognize. Eight months later, the value stream has transformed and 70% of the actions they had planned are complete – evidence of the 8 lean guidelines, 5S and visual management are clear. The steering committee walks the value stream, recognizes the team and shares the success across the site and the division. Over a celebratory dinner together, the team discusses what they learned over the course of the course of the last year as they plan to map the same value stream again…

That’s where we want to go – so let’s talk about what prevents us from getting there. Here are the three most common reasons why value stream mapping implementation often fails.

Lack of Implementation Structure and Governance – many sites don’t have a way of working around how to handle and manage a value stream mapping implementation. The site steering committee should be tasked with creating this.

Lack of Leadership Buy-in and the wrong motivations – sometimes a value stream map is done just to check a box on a matrix somewhere, or it’s done because a leader just came back from a training class and thought it was a good idea. There has to be a clear business objective tied to the budget for the process to be sustainable.

Lack of Stable Processes – trying to implement a FIFO lane or a supermarket in a highly volatile value stream is like trying to rearrange the furniture on the deck of the Titanic. Value stream teams will – often due to well-intentioned yet misguided leadership – implement lean flow systems in areas that aren’t yet ready. If you try to implement a FIFO in an area with 50% rework, the FIFO will likely be violated in short order. Leadership credibility is lost and the implementation stalls. Value stream mapping is still a good tool to apply to an unstable area but it should be used to identify targets to apply tools like Kaizen, 5S, and Practical Problem Solving.

So how do we avoid all these pitfalls and run a successful value stream implementation? The key is to ensure we ask and answer the right questions before we step in that room with all that brown paper.

Here are a list of value stream mapping framework questions – the value stream mapping lead, value stream manager and continuous improvement leader should discuss the questions and get buyin from the plant manager before starting a workshop. These should also be reviewed in the kickoff/charter meeting.

  1. Does the leadership team have a clear understanding of value stream mapping and the 8 lean guidelines? (won’t be supported if leadership doesn’t understand)
  2. How is the site budget linked to the project plan and what metrics will be measured? (this should be clearly defined in the team’s charter)
  3. Is the project leader clearly defined? (This should not be the site CI leader – they should be facilitating and supporting but should not own all the actions)
  4. Who is the Steering Committee Coach and how often will they meet with the leader? (A member of the SSC should be coaching the project leader/team. This is to ensure the SSC is visible and involved in value stream deployment. The coach’s job is to help the team learn and ensure obstacles to implementation are removed)
  5. Is there a skilled continuous improvement facilitator that will support the team?
  6. Do the leader and team members have the capacity to support the implementation?
  7. What is the prescribed way of working to manage the actions that come out of the project?
  8. When and how do they share their results with the leadership team?
  9. How will success be recognized and celebrated?

Most companies have plans to run value stream mapping projects on their 2019 Continuous Improvement Plans and Strategy Deployment Matrices.  It’s critical that we ensure the right support structure is in place so that we give our value stream mapping teams the best chance of being successful.

Any additional ideas on how to be successful when driving value stream map implementation? Any stories to share? Post them in the comments.

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