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October 27, 2011

The true value of Value Stream Mapping

By Rodney Reddic October 27, 2011

When setting out on the journey to become a Lean organization, companies often miss the true importance of utilizing Value Stream Mapping.  Often companies overlook implementing Step Four (Value Stream Mapping product families), as outlined in Chapter 11 of Lean Thinking.  This can be a critical mistake in creating a sustainable Lean Initiative.

Value Stream Mapping should be viewed as the backbone of any Lean Initiative and process improvement endeavors.  Simply picking trouble areas for improvement without examining the entire value stream of the product family or families utilizing the resource can create undesirable results long term.  Value Stream Mapping provides us with the information necessary to understand the actual flow of materials, resources and information through all processes from start to finish for the family of products or services chosen.  By obtaining this knowledge, we can see where flow is interrupted and where to start making improvements that increase the flow across the value stream.  Simply attacking a troubled area in the process without understanding the true value stream could introduce additional WIP (work in process) and inefficiencies in the processes, thus increasing the process lead time across the overall value stream.

Value Stream Mapping - Current vs. Future State

Current State vs. Future State

Value Stream Mapping provides us with a tool to start process improvement through a systematic approach.  We start by mapping the current state for a particular product family from start to finish usually within the four walls of a facility.  From this current state map, we apply Lean tools to create a future state map with an improve process lead time focused on eliminating waste and creating flow across the entire value stream.  This future state map dictates where and what type of Kaizen Events (Improvement Events) will be required to meet the future state map objectives.  The results of our future state map implementation are evaluated against the performance metric objectives developed for the future state value stream.  The future state accomplished through our deployment of Kaizen Events is now our current state for the value stream.  A period of evaluation should be performed and the value stream mapping process repeated to create a new future state map.  This process could take place several times in the journey to become a World Class Company.  Typically value stream mapping plans should be developed with implementation to be completed within (6 -12) months.  This process is repeated for all value streams across the organization to achieve world class improvement results.   The true value in value stream mapping is the creation of process improvement plans that can be implemented systematically across the company with sustainable results.

October 25, 2011

The next big thing…

By rbergs October 25, 2011

Image by MeoplesMagazine via Flickr

So, you have a new product idea that will revolutionize the world, now what?

I have been there many times myself, “Man, I wish there was something that does this…”.  Many believe that the next steps are prototyping, manufacturing, and ultimately a house in the Bahamas.  The problem is, just having an idea does not make it commercially successful, nor does it warrant the expense in time and money to bring the idea to the market.  I remember when I was 12 years old thinking how cool it would be if there was an interactive map in the car.  Fast forward many years, now you have GPS in cars, heck, even cell phones.  Really, the first step starts with pencil and paper.

Before you go too far, there are five simple questions to answer: If the answer to the last question is money, then stop here, as the money is at the end of a long painful road.  Answering these question will help to communicate the idea to others, as well as potential partners, investors, etc.

PROBLEM:  What caused you to have the idea?

My reasoning for the interactive map is that we used to drive from Michigan to Wisconsin once a year to visit my dad’s family.  He wouldn’t let anyone else drive; he wouldn’t tell anyone else the route, because we would get lost.  We came close to hitting a few ditches along the way, since he wouldn’t sleep, and we would make the trip at night after a long day of work.

PROMISE:  What is it that your solution will do? You do not have to have the technical schematics all figured out, but at a high level, how would this work, ‘A widget would cause X to do Y’ is fine, as long as you know what  Y, and it is going to take something that does X to do it.

I had no idea how to track the car, or how to take the data and figure out how to map it, but hey – satellites sounded cool! So, if a satellite could track the car, at least that part is sorted out.  And, well, if the car knew where we were going, and how to get there, it would cut down on the getting lost part, right?

CUSTOMER:  Who are people having the same problem?  Many people just assume that the customer will be a percentage of the population.  This is not correct, because out of those, you have the ones that just live with the problem, have their own way to deal with it, don’t care, and / or have never experienced the issue.  Essentially, think of your demographic, and rewrite the problem statement and promise in a way that would get you excited.  Don’t worry about the number of people at this point because if you can get them excited, they will come.

In my example, I figured there was probably a lot of families with someone who did not want to stop for directions, nor let someone else drive because they ‘knew the way’.  Notice, the problem and promise are written so that someone growing up in the US and went on family road trips can relate.

PROOF:  Why will your solution work / why should I believe you? This you can essentially make up, but use yourself, family and friends as a sounding board:  what would make you and others believe it works?  Maybe there is a test, testimonial, standard, etc. that can be used to give the idea credibility.

In my example, many movies show the military tracking the bad guy, so I figured a cool testimonial would be the FBI’s most wanted tracked down by the use of this device.  If the FBI trusts it, shouldn’t you?  Tests could be done where someone is given a challenge, drive from point A to point B without a map, only using this device, and vice-versa:  who gets there first, less frazzled, etc.  The classic example of this is the blind taste tests ran by Coke and Pepsi, 4 out of 5 prefer X.

WHY DO YOU LOVE THE IDEA:  Why do you want to see this in the market?  If money is the only reason, you might as well stop, because that will not happen for a while.  I was once told by some doctors that part of the residency program is to weed out those there for a paycheck versus those there for the patients.  Those for the paycheck will not stay around because of the long hours and little pay.  There will be long, thankless hours involved with taking a product from idea to commercialization.

In my example, I would have loved to have this so that my mother could drive for part of the trip, so that those not driving could rest, as well as know where the heck we were at 2 am.  Those trips were long because it was hard to sleep when the car would make sudden jerks when my dad woke back up.  However, this love was not strong enough for me to do all the leg work to fully develop the idea.  Trust me, I kick myself every day, but it goes to show the point, you really have to want to see your idea commercialized, otherwise, it will be the anecdote to a blog post.

I wish I could take credit for the above, but I cannot.  The above is a small portion of what is called a Jump Start (shameless plug: offered by TMAC) developed by Doug Hall at Eureka Ranch.  This is a one day idea generation, filtration, and communication workshop, followed by 30 days of follow-on coaching. The goal of a Jump Start is to determine significant hurdles that would keep an idea from being viable, or conversely prove the idea is worth pursuing, with facts, not just gut instincts.  This process works best for companies that want to bring something meaningfully unique to the market, which customers are willing to pay for.   I am not talking a tweak, or a me-too, but something totally new for your company and / or market.

So, when is the last time you introduced a new product to the market?    When you did it, did you look at the above questions?   Tell us about your new product / service experience.

October 20, 2011

Is “Tribal Knowledge” good enough?

By rhernandez October 20, 2011

According to Masaaki Imai in his book Gemba Kaizen – A Common Sense, Low-Cost Approach to Management, management’s two major functions are maintenance and improvement of processes. A basis for both is establishing standards.

Don't kill the tribal knowledge

Is your tribal knowledge good enough?


  1. Represent the best, easiest and safest way to do a job.
  2. Are the best way to preserve knowledge and expertise thereby ensuring consistency and continuity.
  3. Provide a way to measure performance.
  4. Provide a way to improve. Maintenance means following the established standard; upgrading standards is improvement.

Standardization is required to build a viable quality system. If you choose to depend on “tribal knowledge”, improvement, consistency and continuity of processes are only as good as our memories.

October 18, 2011

Need more time? Lead smarter.

By Mark Sessumes October 18, 2011

Jim Croce, a popular singer and song writer from the late 1960’s and early 70’s, wrote and sang a song titled, Time in a Bottle. A few of the lyrics include:

Bottle with a pocket watch inside

Photo by hopeseguin

“If I could make days last forever, if words could make wishes come true……but there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them….”

It occurred to me how applicable this theme is in management and leadership, not just our personal lives.  As leaders, we often spend a great deal of time preparing plans of all types –marketing and sales, sales and operations, master production, new product introductions, and improvement initiatives.  And although we have the best of intentions to execute the plans, it seems as though ‘there never seems to be enough time to do the things we want to do once we’ve found them’.

In the book, Creating a Lean Culture by David Mann, an Organizational Psychologist, he identifies a 4 step approach to achieving the daily habits critical to building a desired culture.  And not surprisingly, it begins with Leadership.  Specifically, Leader Standard Work (LSW).  The other 3 steps include visual control boards, daily accountability cycles, and discipline.

Leader Standard Work provides the mechanism to think through the ‘grand plans’ and design a set of recurring rituals and routines that each manager must perform.  To make it practical, LSW incorporates a Lean theme of smaller batches, more frequently.  Instead of lengthy management meetings held monthly, LSW strives to conduct review activities for a few minutes every day or every week.  This establishes a cadence that is much better at creating lasting behavioral changes than lengthy, infrequent reviews.

Leader Standard Work isn’t a silver bullet but it provides a practical structure by which managers can plan and execute their daily lives and activities to support the grand plans they’ve spent great effort preparing.  LSW has shown to provide the structure and standardization needed to become more systematic in planning, doing, checking, and acting to create learning organizations.  Coupled with the Visual Control Boards, Daily Accountability Cycles, and Discipline, the 4 steps outlined in the book create a framework of an effective management system.

What has your company done to incorporate Leader Standard Work?  How has it worked for you?

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