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GPR and Value Stream Mapping―Matched for Success

Hordes of people around the world and, more specifically, in government services have been adopting aspects of Business Process Reengineering (BPR) for many years.

For those of us who have been watching the related developments in Operational Excellence (OpEx) and Lean Six Sigma (LSS), we have seen a lot of adoption of the technique called Value Stream Mapping (VSM). Without totally confusing what a Value Stream Map is, let me tell you that what it should be in your situation is… it depends.

Having led and participated in building VSMs in businesses from big-three automotive plants, government operations, financial institutions and mom and pop printers and job shops, I can tell you that the final form of a value stream map has infinite possibilities. So, the form depends on what you are tackling and the business environment at hand. At a minimum, the three things that Value Stream Maps should provide consistently are:

1. An Understanding of the “Current State”
2. A “Future State” Vision or Set of Goals
3. An Implementation Roadmap with a Built-In Correction Mechanism

As government operations move toward a version of BPR and Government Process Reengineering (GPR), it begs this query:

To Value Stream Map or Not–That is the Question

To help you better understand why it’s so important, let me share with you some observations to answer that question.

Understanding Your Current State and Creating a Fact-Based “Current State” Value Stream Map

Issue: Will doing value stream mapping cost a lot of money―and should we therefore avoid it?

A current-state Value Stream Map is easily scaled to the need and doesn’t have to be overly complicated or time-consuming to construct. I have taken teams of three people from learning the concepts to finishing a detailed VSM in just a few hours. In another case (the automaker), it took eight weeks of effort with 20 people involved on a near full-time basis to get it done. Scope and complexity dictate the scale. In the beginning, I recommend that you err on the “simpler is better” side of the equation.

It does not matter what you are working on–from an order entry process, a job shop, paroling prisoners or high-volume complex capital equipment production across a multinational supply chain–the process is the same.

1. Form a cross-functional team that together does understand the end-to-end process and set the scope to be something we can get our arms around in a reasonable period of time.
2. Verify a basic understanding exists of the VSM process (or do training)
a. Physically go see the processes and then build your current-state map using the data you collect as you go.
b. The hardest part of this process is agreeing upon and then populating the data boxes in your VSM. The data boxes memorialize what happens at each step in our value stream. Typically the steps are defined when we have hands off of information or things between functions, or our “thing” will experience a significant delay. While there can be hundreds of information candidates, I recommend initially limiting the effort to no more than 10 (ten). The information the team agrees upon is vital to know in order to properly understand the value stream.
c. I like to use a paper form created by the team (usually a word processing form) that has all of the elements of data we are looking for with blank spaces to write in the results. Adding directional arrows and a place to record value-add versus non-value-add time is a nice touch if we are going to tape these up on the wall in the order of the process steps for analysis.
d. After you have the form, it is a simple matter to send the team out with copies and collect all the information, writing it on forms as they go. Upon returning to the team meeting area, place these in order, usually taped to a wall in the directional flow of the process.
e. Use the visualization to discuss things like rework loops, bottlenecks and idiosyncrasies in what was found.
f. If no one produced VSM before, you will save a lot of false starts and dead-ends if you use a skilled facilitator at the onset who has already successfully completed a few VSMs.
g. Do not focus on what you want to do to fix at this point. Focus on establishing an understanding of what it is, no matter how ugly it may seem. This means using the real performance data. Resist the urge to tweak the information favorably based on what should be. Use actual observations, not standards!

A “Future State” Vision or Set of Goals

Once you have a visualization of your (ugly) CSVSM, the creative part starts. Follow good brainstorming and facilitation rules and gather all ideas on what can be improved.

1. Prioritize the ideas based on how they impact Value Stream Performance.
a. For example, ideas that break obvious bottlenecks and otherwise ensure the ability of the value stream to consistently meet and exceed the customer requirements take first priority.
b. The next priorities are the ones that take the least capital and time as opposed to the expected bottom-line benefit. It will be fairly easy to narrow down the rest. I suggest limiting the initial action item list to 7 to 10 things at the onset.
2. Set goals tied to metrics for improvement over a reasonable time frame–never longer than a year out. Goals longer than a year will not be met because there will not be enough urgency to do something. Generally, the shorter the window, the better.
3. Decide how you will measure improvements and set the metrics. Resist soft metrics like “better morale.” Focus on hard ones like “cycle time,” “percent scrap and/or rework” or “percentage on time.”

An Implementation Roadmap with a Built-In Correction Mechanism

1. Set a timeline for completing the improvement ideas and assess and verify the resources and effort required to get it done.
2. Formalize your action plan and verify top management buy-in.
3. COMMUNICATE the plan carefully to all who will be impacted. In some cases, the initial communication is the first time affected people will find out what is happening. I strongly recommend using the initial communication efforts to engage those affected in a dialogue that promotes refinement and continual improvement to the plan. If you blow the communication piece, you will scare the daylights out of a lot of people, thereby guaranteeing passive and active resistance to the changes.
4. Commit to a regular review and corrective action process to keep the process moving. Think about this being your “Deming Wheel” of Plan, Do, Check, Act. Review at least once a month, and more often, if your circumstances warrant.

Back to Question–To Map or Not…

By now, you have a better understanding of how to go about the process and what you should get out of it. To do it or not do it is a choice. If implementing lean/world-class principles successfully are your goal, I suggest that Value Stream Mapping is a mandate at the beginning. Further, this tool should scale up in scope and detail on a perpetual basis as part of the ongoing development of a world-class culture in the enterprise. I can think of no better mechanism to keep everyone involved and focused on where we are, where we are going, why and how we will get there. Even better, Value Stream Mapping provides a quantifiable and factual way to measure and assess movement to the goal–perfection and dominance of your chosen markets.

You make the choice. Feel free to contact me for samples of data boxes or if you have questions.

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