Value Stream Mapping is one of the Most effective methods and Skills a Lean practitioner can have. With an effective VSM methodology the tool of mapping can be used to truly transform processes from process level all the way to extended enterprise systems and maps. Let's look at a few elements that can be applied to mapping and keep your vehicle on course;
1. Define the Objective
Like a vision the people mapping need something to align their thoughts with. Clearly defining the objective with all parties will allow people to ask the all important question "Is what I'm about to do going to move me towards or away from my objective?" Of course you want to head towards; you can define objectives through a charter, contract or an A3. The use of these project tracking tools will help to keep the objective insight.
2. Teardown the process
Now that you have clearly laid out your objectives and all parties agree on the goals at hand, it's time to Go see and understand what is exactly happening in the Current State. Remember to include process owners and SME's they will help you understand the as is. While investigating at the Gemba, it is a good idea to snap photos and take notes. The Goal here is to really understand what is actually happening not what is supposed to be happening. In this stage you will also want to begin to make what you are understanding visual. Making the process visual means getting the good old stickies out and putting them on the wall. The process owners can help you to map out the steps which will further your understanding of the current state at the gemba.
3. Apply the right Metrics
It goes without saying but if you are looking to reduce cycle time you would not want the Mapping participants to to identify cost (cheapest, most expensive). Now I'm not suggesting you use process mapping for more than just reducing process times, but use process mapping for more than just "time". After you have listed the steps in the process you will want to list the cycle times below, the best and worst is okay or if you are looking at cost reduction the most expensive and least expensive will work too, be sure you capture the appropriate metrics in the row shown below, it should be in line with your objective. The photo below may help you understand.
3. Review and Examine
Now that you have laid out each step in your process and have the appropriate data and or metrics associated with the Objective in place you can begin to review and examine the Current process. The word "Review" gives us the hint we will scrub again so make sure everyone who was involved still is involved. When we "scrub again" we look for anything that might be a bit messy or that we missed so take this opportunity to identify key bottlenecks or constraints that are choking the life out of your process. Take a microscope to your process and make visual what category each step fits into (VA,NVA,BN/BVA). Of course as you examine each of the symptoms that are brought up you will want to get to the root cause.
4. Decide what the "best route" is and "drive"
Well we haven't started our "vacation" yet, but we have clearly defined where we are going (objective) and we figured out our gas and speed (data metrics) and of course we talked about all the things we would enjoy to do (VA,NVA, BN/BVA) and nobody left out all the things that could go wrong (bottlenecks and constraints). Now it's time to decide what the best route is (solutions) and advance. In this stage you can finalize your solutions, gain consensus amongst everyone and plan out any implementations that might need more resources or approval from the mountain top. Anything other solutions that you can do quickly, get er done.
5. Last but not Least
In the process of driving towards your objective you will want to figure out "how to sustain or improve" your plan so that the end result of reaching your objective happens as it should. We all know that stuff comes up and need to pivot at times, that time comes as soon as it happens adjust as necessary and share with the entire team any changes that have revealed themselves. Lastly update any new procedures, standards and policies that may need to be updated. One last Key element to sustainment is proper training to bring everyone up to speed.
Value stream mapping like a vacation can be fun and yield transformative results if the right elements are in place and experienced practitioners are involved. Now go and reach your objectives, if you get lost along the way give us a holler, we're happy to support.