Value Stream Mapping

Visual Representation of how Value flows through your system and identify metrics to inform improvement decisions.
Contributed by

Justin Holmes

Matt Takane

Edited by
Published September 12, 2017

What Is Value Stream Mapping?

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".

Why Do Value Stream Mapping?

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:

  • Building shared understanding throughout the organization on how value is actually provided
  • Providing clarity for building concensus and creating the urgency for improvement
  • Revealing disconnect, redundancies and unnecessary complications
  • Formulating specific, data driven improvement plans
  • Applying Systems Thinking by preventing "improvement" work in a particular area that leads to sub-optimization for the entire value stream / process.

How to do Value Stream Mapping?

Facilitation Materials Needed

Some teams prefer whiteboards, but the most common approach uses paper and PostIts

  • Drawing paper roll.
  • Different colored wide format sticky notes like the 4x6 sticky notes
  • Markers for the PostIts
  • Charcoal pencil and eraser to draw lines between PostIts

How does it fit?

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.

Look at Value Stream Mapping

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