Although We don't Often notice it, a "Value Stream" has a flow much like the Stream you see in the photo above. The Concept of a "Value Stream" is easily understood in this analogy. Let's imagine for a second that you have clearly defined "What Value is", those elements in the Stream are the Water. Water is the Value added elements of your Value Stream or your product or service that a customer is willing to pay for, is made right the first time and is being transformed in some way.
As you may have guessed, in any Value Stream there are some "rocks in the water". Those rocks are the activities that impede the efficient flow of the Value Stream. They Could be Muda like the photo Shown below
Or they Could come from one of the other two Origins of Waste Mura and Muri. None the Less those Rocks that you see are Waste in the Value Stream. They are the elements in your shop or Office that are causing late deliveries, poor quality, frustrating processes and resources that aren't doing quite as much as they could be. Often times the rocks do not rise all the way to the top of the water, you know we see it everyday so we "work around" or "deal with" it, but they still impede the flow of the Value Stream. This is one of the main reasons we use "Value Stream Mapping", so that we can make those "Rocks" or inefficiencies in the process rise to the top and become completely visible.
One other Key element to a Value Stream Map that can be quite powerful is that it has the unique ability to capture both Information inefficiencies and Material Inefficiencies. This can be quite important as you might not realize the queue time of an email until it becomes visible.
As we begin to map multiple "Value Streams" we start to understand how each Stream begins to affect the Ocean and what the interaction between the multiple Streams is like in relation to the overall system.
Finally we get to a place where the entire system is Understood and we can now begin to plan the most efficient route forward. This part takes a great deal of time to get to and much effort too, but the results that Value Stream Mapping can bring certainly are worth the efforts. One by one you remove all the rocks in the water and eventually you look back on a well balanced, gushing stream of water or shall we say gushing "Stream of Value."
Try it out today, Map a Process out you never know, you may end up removing an entire dam.....