How to create a value stream map

Mr Bean captioned "why would you do that"

Value Stream Mapping Part Three: How to create a value stream map

This is the third and final article in the three-part series. If you haven’t already done so you may want to read parts one and two first.

1. Define the problem

First of all, you must clearly understand and define the problem you are trying to solve. You may have been assigned to investigate a specific issue in an organisation or as a business owner you may have data or an intuition that suggests a part of your business is underperforming. A good tool to use at this point is the 5 Whys Technique.  

What is the 5 Whys Technique?

Mr Bean captioned "why would you do that" This is a quick and simple brainstorming exercise that helps to identify root causes. You will need to assemble a team of people who are familiar with the process and involved with it at different steps. You then start with the general problem and continue to ask why until you get to the root cause. In our medical clinic example that might go like this:
Problem: We can’t keep up with finalising the files Why: There are too many for the staff assigned Why: It takes a long time to finalise a file Why: It’s a task that has to be done thoroughly and then you have to return the file and get another. Why? Hmmm….why do we have to return the file and get another?

Define the Problem Statement

You can now use this information to write a problem statement. This is a brief and concise statement that clearly defines the nature and magnitude of the problem. It should include:
  • What is the problem
  • Where and when it is happening
  • A description of magnitude which ideally includes the cost
  • A brief description of how the problem is measured.
Our problem statement might be:
During peak times our staff cannot keep up with finalising files. We believe that unnecessary movement is adding 2 hours per day to the activity. Based on the average pay rate this costs the company $18000 per year in base salary alone.

2. Assemble your team

Marvel Avengers Once again you will want to involve people who are involved with and/or affected by the problem at different steps so that you have insight into why things must be done in a certain way and how they affect other parts of the business. For this stage, it can also be valuable to include someone unfamiliar with any of the content as they will often notice and question things that people closer to the problem don’t notice. This is one of the reasons that consultants are often employed for these projects.  

3. Bound the process

Get very clear about which elements of the process contribute to the problem. You may find that you only need to map a sub-section. If you mapped the whole process you would be creating overprocessing waste within your own project!    

4. Map the bounded process

Map the process. This can be as simple as drawing on a piece of paper or as complicated as using dedicated software. It depends on the complexity of the process and the scale of the problem. flow chart   You would usually start out with a hand-drawn process even if you then went on to something more sophisticated.            

5. Collect process data

process map with data As you conduct value stream mapping, note the process data in the data boxes of the map. Process data includes (but is not limited to) the number of people involved, the average number of working hours, cycle time, wait time, uptime, downtime, and more.        

6. Create a timeline

Map out process times and lead times. In this example, I’ve created a diagram using MS Visio. However, your timeline could be much simpler depending on the scope of your project. The objective is to understand how long the different process steps take and where the overlaps and delays are. process map diagram created in visio

7. Assess your current value stream map

Be inquisitive. Ask yourself:
  • Which steps do not add value for the customer?
  • Are they necessary for any other reason?
  • Can they be eliminated?

8. Design the future value stream map

ms visio value stream map, flow chart, process map Now that you’re clear on which steps are essential and where you can eliminate waste, design your ideal process map. Consult with your team, refine and test

9. Implement the future value stream map

Lego character with caption Everything is Awesome! Everything is awesome, right? Possibly not. Monitor your new process closely in the early stages for any unforeseen issues. Keep collecting data so that you can be sure you’ve achieved the gains you set out to achieve and solved the problem you defined in your problem statement. Be aware of change management at this time. Although if you’ve involved the correct key people in the project issues of accepting the change will be reduced. And as with every workplace project don’t forget to celebrate a job well done with your team!


Do you think your workplace could benefit from a Value Stream Mapping project? If you’re not sure where to start why not book a free video chat? (no sales pitches, I promise!) I’d love to hear from you!  

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