A Practical Guide to Value Stream Mapping - Part 4 of 5

Posted by Greg Thompson on May 2, 2019 8:22:00 AM

pexels-photo-533189-1Can I facilitate the VSM myself, or should I use an outside resource?

Short answer: Sure. You probably can facilitate it yourself; and should if you’re comfortable with it. VSM isn’t rocket science. But, depending on your level of experience with lean / VSM and company dynamics, there may be advantages to using an outside resource.

Long answer: When I worked in the industry, I didn’t like consultants. I never felt like they knew our business as well as we did, yet they were giving us advice. In hindsight, sometimes that was a good thing, as we would be stuck on a paradigm, or couldn’t see the forest through the trees, and a different perspective was helpful. I am now one of those consultants (university-affiliated, non-profit), and I see the role of a consultant differently.

Unbiased facilitation: Sometimes the value of an outside resource is their specific knowledge, skill, or collective experience. However, I’ve often seen the value of my work come from being an unbiased third party. Internal politics can often be an obstacle to improvement, and an unbiased outside resource can help mitigate some of those issues. I don’t have an agenda. I can ask questions about the elephant in the room, sometimes not realizing there is an elephant in the room. The process of mapping requires the facilitator to learn the details about the value stream. In many ways, being unfamiliar with the value stream is an advantage for a facilitator. I will ask questions that may not otherwise be asked if a facilitator who is familiar with the process thinks they are common knowledge, and that may not be the case. I can ask “why…why…why” many times without it being a dumb question -being foreign to the process, I’m not expected to know the answer - and I can ask without prejudice or personal bias.

I was facilitating a transactional VSM for a local manufacturing company years ago. The guy that brought us in was an engineer with a Continuous Improvement background. As we went through the VSM process with their team, it was obvious that this guy knew VSM well. At lunch, I suggested that he probably could have facilitated the VSM instead of bringing in IMEC. He replied something like “Yeah, I would have been comfortable leading this…but my boss is Fred, and he doesn’t get along so well with George, the other engineering manager. If I were leading the VSM, there would be the perception that I will lead the team to do what Fred wants to do.” I’ve also heard from others “The guys respond differently to you than to the plant manager. You’re just a friend trying to help.”

External perspective: I’ve also seen many cases where my advice as a consultant is given much more weight / credence than identical advice from an internal source. A prophet has no honor in his own land! “What does he know? He works here.” I suppose my advice is considered good and credible because I’ve been to many places and have seen many things, but also because I don’t have a vested interest or agenda, other than helping the business move forward toward continued success.

Efficient use of resources: Another thing to consider whether or not to use an external resource is the overall cost and impact of the project. An outside consultant may seem like a significant cost, but consider the cost of your personnel in the VSM: 6 - 8 salaries for 1 – 3 days is a bigger investment. You want to use their time well. I had a client who had started doing VSM on their own. They told me they spent 4 hours arguing about how to do the first process box, and never finished the VSM. Also, if an experienced resource can get the team to a place where an implemented Future State will yield 10%, 20%, or more benefit than an internal resource could, then the investment in the external resource is well worth it.

I’m not suggesting you need an outside resource to get started; I’m merely listing some things to think about. I promote companies doing their own VSMs whenever possible; I am writing this guide for that very purpose. IMEC’s model is to share knowledge and teach others how to fish. If you are going to be a lean company, VSM should be a core practice. Ideally, you’ll have one or more internal resources that can facilitate mapping in manufacturing, logistics, planning, quoting, customer service, accounting, and other aspects of your business. If you don’t have this resource internally, work on identifying and developing one or more. The first few VSMs your business conduct may be a little clunky -mine were, too; but you’ll learn and improve as you go. If you need help getting started, or an outside, unbiased perspective, look to an experienced external resource to get you moving forward.

Characteristics of a Good Facilitator

  • Comfortable in the front of the room – presenting and leading a team
  • Fair and unbiased
  • Open-minded
  • Good listener
  • Inquisitive, with a desire to fully understand – they will need to ask a lot of probing questions
  • Good business sense -what may / may not be important to the business
  • Organized
  • Excellent attention to detail

Planning for a VSM

Once a value stream is chosen, it’s a good idea to fill out a project charter for your VSM. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. A one-page document is fine. Please distribute it to the team prior to the start of the VSM, so everyone is on the same page and has a chance to ask questions or challenge the goals / scope. It should include:

  • Location
  • Dates, start & end times
  • Participants and other resources, with VS manager identified (if possible)
  • Goals of the VSM (tangible / measurable when possible)
  • Scope / boundaries (start, finish, inclusions, exclusions)

Ideally, a VSM is conducted near the process it relates to. This applies to both manufacturing and transactional VSMs. You always want to “walk the process” when doing a manufacturing VSM, and often times, we also do this for a transactional VSM. During the creation of the VSM, you may find that there is something you missed, or you wish to see again, or a disagreement over a data point. If you are physically near the value stream, then someone from the team, or the entire team, can quickly verify. Other resources needed for input to the VSM tend to be local as well. The one downside to performing a VSM locally is the potential for distractions like shop floor issues and other interruptions. I’ve done VSMs both on-site and off-site, and onsite is greatly preferred.

Tomorrow will conclude the Value Stream Mapping blog series, with the 5th blog sharing information about current and future state, and how to create future state.

Tomorrow's blog will also deliver the full VSM Guide e-book. The e-book will cover all of the topics in this blog series, in addition to:

  • Picking a product family
  • Who should be on the team?
  • The walk-through
Greg Thompson

Written by Greg Thompson

Topics: operations, value stream mapping

    Subscribe to Email Updates:

    Stay Connected:

    Posts by Category