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Value Stream Mapping: The key to defeating legacy processes

An employee using a visual management wall to plan
We are in an era of great transition and the larger your organisation, the more effort that is required for sustainable transformations. But there is something that lurks beneath the spreadsheets. A creature so vile that to question its purpose leaves you both bewildered and confused.

Legacy processes

We will share how you can overcome the most dangerous and insidious processes that over time have embedded themselves in the culture of your organisation, and we’ll do it using a simple but powerful tool, value stream mapping.

Surprisingly, one of the largest blockers to organisational change are your own processes. Specifically, processes born out of legacy. Marcus Aurelius once said, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” - and the same can be said for processes. If a process is born out of a blocker, the new way becomes the process, and over time it becomes so ingrained in how we do something that to even question changing it becomes a blocker in itself. If this sounds familiar, you’re significantly restricting your organisational agility and may soon wonder (if not already) why the market is accelerating away from you.

As the organisation grows and evolves so too do the problems, and sometimes at a far greater rate of acceleration. Suddenly, we’re under pressure to keep the momentum going so we add additional steps and sometimes create entire departments just to deal with the processes that we’ve created in the first place. It’s amazing how much clutter we acquire in the workplace as our organisations grow and shift. Decisions made long ago to do something a particular way can not only cost millions of dollars in lost productivity and reduce delivery to the customer, but employee engagement can take a hit too.

Value Stream Mapping is just one of the tools we can bring to clients, it’s origins born from the manufacturing sector to help management better understand the flow of work, find value and remove waste. It has since been part and parcel of the lean methodology helping lean and agile coaches look ‘under the bonnet’. For some clients we find additional revenue opportunities, other times we may reveal the true cost of waste or simply identify a missing piece of the puzzle such as how well you’re interacting with your customers.

What does it do?

1. It provides you with a graphic to analyse the flow of work required from supply or production to the delivery to the customer or end user.

2. It’s a visual tool for showing you the relationships that exist in and around your processes.

3. Consequently, it provides you with the dashboard needed for highlighting continuous improvement opportunities for all stakeholders involved.

Yet the single most common outcome from using value stream mapping, is for identifying and removing waste. The tool shows us the relationship between how we work now versus how we could work in an ideal state, presenting very clearly the opportunities for improvement.

Value stream mapping can get as granular as you need, so it’s important to begin with a top level breakdown of the entire process, this will help prioritise the areas for your team to investigate immediately and should ultimately create the greatest impact for your customers at the same time.

If you’re keen to dive in and conduct your own value stream mapping session, ensure you’re considering the following elements: - The customer (end user) - who is impacted by the success or failure of your process? - The supplier/s (supply) - moving away from a manufacturing context for a moment, who within your team or organisation has the intricate knowledge of your process. - The flow of work (product and/or information) - ensuring you have the right people in the room will allow you to accurately visualise your value stream map, you’ll quickly prioritise the bottlenecks and gather the intel you need.

Value is the key to defeating legacy processes. So which processes in your organisation do you need to have a look at? Could they be done better? Are they ultimately adding value to our customers and stakeholders?

Written by
Alistair Gray
Enterprise Agile Coach @ The Agile Eleven


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