Value Flow – get insights with Value Stream Mapping

Customers like to have a constant flow of value, the faster they get their products and the lower their costs are the happier they will be. 

Faster Value Flow with lower defects

With the rise of agile methodologies and techniques like XP (Extreme Programming), Scrum, Lean, Kanban many companies seek to improve their capability to deliver value in short time spans and with lower defects.
Automated Testing, Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery are some of the buzzwords that you might have heard. I won’t go into detail about these but will show you a practical example how to get deeper insights into any part of your value chain.
But before talking too much about the background why you do it and raw and boring theory I’ll just go ahead and show you a practical guide.
If that get’s you interested you maybe want to read the follow-up blogpost.

Step 1 – Post-Its and a pen

All you need to start is a pack of post-its and a pen.
With that you create something similar like you see in the picture below.

What you’ll do is to literally “walk” the value stream and create a post-it for every action taken where you also take a note of how long the action itself takes.
While you do that the most important step is to also take a note about the time it takes between the actions. This you can see in the arrows in the picture above. 
For the example above you would note the time that it takes (in average) from the moment a bug is found until it is submitted into the bug-tracking system. And also the time that it takes until it is analysed and prioritized. From there on walk your way through the complete bug tracking chain and take notes of all actions and the time it takes until the next actions starts.
With this information you can now create the… 

Value Stream Map of the bug fixing chain

  1. To create the Value Stream Map first find an appropriate scale (in this example the whole time was 50 days), but don’t be scientific about it all you need to create is something with the right proportions
  2. Draw a horizontal line for the action with it’s duration
  3. Draw a vertical line when the action is done and goes into waiting mode
  4. Draw a horizontal line for the duration of the waiting time
  5. Repeat step 2-4 until you are at the end

Analysing the Value Stream Map

Now you have the information that you wanted in a very nice visual way.
All the work done with it’s duration is above the baseline, and all the wait time with it’s duration is below the baseline.
You can also add the numbers on the value stream map, but you don’t necessarily need the numbers. What you want to find out is the relations between work done and wait time.
If you take the example above one thing jumps to attention when you look at the time between having fixed a bug and when it is assigned to a release until it is finally deployed and tested.
The waiting time is huge.
So if you don’t have limitations from outside your company on how often you can release one obvious step to improve the time for fixing bugs would be to release more often.

Next – Improve

So why did you do all this paperwork?
If you care about your customers you want to provide them with constant value flow.
And if you do it right and your customers are happy this will in return give a constant flow of new work and projects which will make you successful.
So pick out the one thing of the value stream map that you can and want to work on and improve it.
In my next blog post I’ll speak more about ways (like the deming cycle – PDCA below) to identify possible improvements and also how you can step by step work on improving those flaws in your value flow.
If you liked this blog post I’d be happy to receive feedback on how you created your first value stream map, what insights it gave you and I would also be happy if you then read the follow-up post.

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