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The Neck of the Bottle - Value Stream Mapping

Value Stream Mapping

Value Stream Mapping, or material and information-flow mapping, is a lean management method.

It analyzes the current state of the events that take a product or service from the beginning of the specific process until it reaches the customer.

VSM is a visual tool that displays all critical steps in a specific process and quickly quantifies the time and volume taken at each stage.

VSM is crucial for finding waste, reducing process cycle times, and implementing process improvement measures (Kaizen).

By finding and eliminating wasteful steps, VSM helps reduce costs, improve quality, and increase customer satisfaction.

Value stream mapping typically begins with a team creating a current state map. This means capturing the actual condition of a value stream’s material and information flow. Subsequently, the team draws a future state map.

Diagrams of material and information flow, like Value Stream Maps, were first recorded in the 1918 book Installing Efficiency Methods by Charles Edward Knoeppel. The book is still in print!

Toyota adopted it the 1950s for the Toyota Production System (a.k.a. Lean)

Some situations when you should use value mapping:

  • Find any piled-up inventories in the process.

  • Look for opportunities to optimize the process.

  • Learn about the inherent complexities of the process.

  • Understand the IT systems used in the process.

  • Assess the effectiveness of customer service channels.

  • Visually display the health of your processes

  • Strategically review your processes to make improvements.

Tips on VSM

Talk to the leadership first. Ensure you understand your key stakeholders' goals and consider those goals as you choose a process to analyze.

Observe the process and collect data. Ask your colleagues to walk you through the existing process. Record the time it takes to complete each step and record any spots of inefficiency.

Record the current state first and then move on to a future state.

Document your process as is so you can show any issues. After you have created that value stream map, you can create others to show ideal workflows.

What does VSM mean in the world of software development?

Forrester defines VSM as the “combination of people, process, and technology that maps, optimizes, and governs business value flow through heterogeneous enterprise software delivery pipelines.”

Paper submitted to the Forbes Technology Council: “offers a unique view of the software delivery life cycle through the customer experience lens, to better align with business objectives and scale Agile and DevOps transformations.”

Sample Value Stream Maps

few changes:

  • Cross-functional Teams: Graphics design through deployment.

  • Abandon all but the most promising 3 games in each queue.

  • Create one game per cross-functional team at a time.

  • Engage developers in playing games and selecting game ideas.

Shortly after, the results were:

  • 3 to 4 months total time.

  • 6 to 8 times faster!


Value Stream Mapping is a great tool for spotting bottlenecks. Scrum is a great tool for removing bottlenecks.

Speeding up product development is often just improving the process rather than adding people but avoid local optimization!

Value stream mapping is critical for business sustainability:

  • Visualization

  • Cost Savings

  • Continuous Improvement

  • Waste Elimination

  • Increased customer satisfaction

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