4 ways our value stream training may be different than yours
Value stream mapping training is almost like six sigma training these days – a dime a dozen. There is so much content out there, and so much of it is the same. At the Lean Learning Center, we’ve always focused on solving problems that had not yet been solved, or solved well. Value stream mapping wouldn’t seem to fit that criteria. So we do we offer a Lean Value Stream Improvement course?
1. Improvement, not Mapping
Want to go to value stream mapping training? Go ahead, but you’re missing the point. Building a map is never the point. The map itself is not magic. It does not give you the answer. The purpose of building the map is to generate a common understanding of the current state. This common understanding comes about through the discussion that people have while building the map. If you could accomplish that same common understanding without building the map, then you would. The map is a means to the end, not the end to itself.
But of course we come to the purpose of that common understanding. It is only a means to having a clear, effective, and committed plan of improvement. This is why all of this work gets done. You want to focus on improving the right parts and aspects of the value stream.
Too much of the education focuses on the mapping process. Too many leaders and consultants give people a passing grade just for having a map built. But we try to make sure people understand the overall process and perspective that makes this work for you. That’s why we call our course Value Stream Improvement, and not Value Stream Mapping. You must stay true to the purpose every step of the way.
2. Ideal state, not future state
Most value stream mapping is taught in a way that once you have the current reality, you ask some specific questions, and out pops the future state process. But this is limited in its thinking, its vision, and its potential. For the team to really be thinking lean when looking at their value stream, a vision of the ideal state is required.
Between the common understanding of current reality, and the vision of the ideal state, it creates two points. Two points make a line. And now we have a direction.
An ideal state serves several functions. First, it stretches us to think beyond just fixing a few of our gripes about the current state. Second, it helps surface barriers and solutions that would never get surfaced if you only focused on a future state. Third, it creates alignment of what good looks like so that future decisions can be evaluated based on whether or not they are brining you closer to that ideal state. In summary, the ideal state is more likely to lead to breakthroughs than just focusing on a future state.
We find that experienced lean thinkers will engage this ideal state thinking naturally. We believe it is most effective when built into the structure and process, however, and so we teach the process in this way.
3. Not one path forward, but perhaps one best path
Because most value stream mapping focuses mostly on asking specific questions and proposing specific solutions, it limits the different paths of improvement. There is no one path that everyone should follow.
When you focus how to get between the current state and towards your ideal state, there are many paths forward. The right path for you may depend on your circumstances. I could focus on taking out some of the immediate waste that exists in the process, which could reduce cost and improve quality, but not necessarily do anything to set up future improvements. Or I could focus on making the process more stable, structured, and visible; this won’t offer as much immediate gain, but would set up the ability to make many improvements.
These aren’t the only options, but gives you an idea that there are multiple paths. The right path for the organization might depend on the business needs, the learning needs, the resources available, and other factors. Choosing the right path is an important dimension of leading value stream improvement.
Most people pick project opportunities simply based on the impact on the business. But this doesn’t take into account how easy it is, how fast it can be done, what we learn from it or how fast we learn from it, or how much it will cost to get there. As I’ve written about before, sometimes the best way to increase ROI is to focus on the small-I investment opportunities.
4. Adults learn differently
The most common method of teaching value stream mapping is handing people a pre-written, pre-packaged data set and then step by step turning that into a map. My belief is that this is not a learning experience. Figuring out what observations and what data to capture is at least half the battle. Turning it into a map is just one step of the process.
Instead, we use a simulation called the LeanQuad. It’s based on a designed ATV, or 4-wheeler, based on LEGO components. Teams must use what they observe while running the process to work together to build a value stream map. It is better to struggle through this process in the safety of a classroom with the backstop of a coach, than to falter with a real process and a real team.
To add to the reality, as the teams develop the current reality and the ideal state, they are then saddled with a budget. You don’t have unlimited time, money, and resources in real life, so why should you in a simulation. When it comes to value stream improvement, it’s not what to improve, it’s about what to improve first.
We want people to experience value stream improvement in the classroom, not just hear about it.