(919) 294-6316
Get started now

Lean IT – Start with the Value Stream Map

strong roots run deep

Silver Tree Services Logo

Lean IT – Start with the Value Stream Map

LEAN IT – Where to start?

Speaking with Silver Tree clients about Lean IT, many quickly realize Lean IT will benefit their organization; which invariably leads them to ask the question where does an organization start? Glad you asked!


Silver Tree starts here.

  • Define your customer and the goods and/or services they need/desire.
  • What value-added activities does your organization perform to deliver the good or service?
  • These elements help us identify the value stream to be optimized – the sequence of activities required to design, produce, and deliver a good or service to a customer.


Value Stream Mapping. A value stream map is a graphical tool representing a high-level picture of complex work systems which highlight disconnections, redundancies and gaps in how work is accomplished (likened to a storyboard, Martin and Osterling, 2014). Value stream mapping is particularly effective in showing how material and information flow across the organization.


Holistic View. However, if we view value stream mapping simply as a visual tool it is easy to lose sight that it offers a holistic view of how work flows through the entire system. To understand this it helps to view how value streams relate to processes. The relationship between value streams, processes and process steps can be viewed as a hierarchy (ibid.) as shown in the diagram.Value Stream vs Process Perspective


A Value Stream can be composed of many processes. Think of the IT value stream of creating and delivering some software capability to the end user. Within that value stream we have processes such as analysis, development, test and build/release. The next figure shows what a highly idealized waterfall value stream could look like.


You should note several things:

  • It identifies a very high level perspective, we are not showing the details of any steps.
  • Metrics for lead time (LT) and process time (PT) as well as % Complete and Accurate (%C&A) are shown for each of the major value added processes. Capturing these metrics highlight some differences between value stream and process mapping.
  • It focuses our attention on non-value added activities.

Curent State Value Stream Software Dev


In later blogs I will explore in more detail how this initial activity, value stream mapping, provides the foundation for Lean IT.


Not Just Another Name for Process Re-engineering. The astute reader will no doubt come to the realization that value stream mapping is not just another name for process re-engineering. Many conflate the two terms, however, this discussion should illustrate that if anything value stream mapping should precede any process re-engineering that needs to be done.


Overarching Strategic Vision. Process optimization as indicated in the first diagram is an activity for the front line, who are closest to the actual steps in value creation. It is not the activity best suited for senior leaders. Senior leaders should focus on the overarching strategic vision not the details required to optimize swim lane process maps. In fact, if an organization moves too quickly to a detailed view, it is easy to overlook opportunities to remove non-value activities which may only be apparent when viewing the value stream holistically.


Engaging Senior Leadership. Before I wrap up this post, let me say something about the logistics recognizing how difficult it is to engage senior leadership in such endeavors. The exercise of identifying the current value stream map, creating the future map and establishing the transformation plan is typically performed within three days by a facilitator with senior leadership. As value stream mapping is the macro perspective defining strategic direction this effort cannot be delegated to junior staff. This is the time for the leaders of the organization to think through how work should be performed. Note that although we are committing senior leaders to a 3 day workshop, there typically is a month of preparation required to set the stage for the mapping and following that we turn to executing the transformation plan which will take months if not years.

Want to learn more? View our various assessments and case studies. We welcome the opportunity to explore how we can help you.