Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a third generation lean process improvement technique. The Value Stream itself is the series of individual processes that connect together to create the valuable goods or service that an organization produces for its customer. The process of mapping the Value Stream is designed to view the big, macro picture in order for executives to make strategic decisions as part of an extended organizational transformation effort.
The first generation of this technique comes from Toyota's "information and material flow", as documented in Lean Thinking and the second generation from "Learning to See".
In the context of software delivery, VSM is an excellent tool to holistically analyze and optimize existing "brownfield" delivery processes, including everything from requirements definition, infrastructure provisioning and application development.
Being derived from Lean Manufacturing, VSM visually represents the way value flows through an organization from the time a customer requests a good/service, until the time a customer receives the good/service. This practice can be particularly effective at:
Some teams prefer whiteboards, but the most common approach uses paper and PostIts
VSM pairs particularly well with the Metrics-Based Process Mapping (MBPM) practice. Used together, VSM represents the flow of value through a system at a macro level in order to make strategic improvements whereas MBPM represents the micro lower-level flow in order to make tactical improvements.
Check out these great links which can help you dive a little deeper into running the Value Stream Mapping practice with your team, customers or stakeholders.