Thursday, May 01, 2008

Value Stream Maps are Muda

You might be thinking that I have lost my kaizen mind by the title of this post. How can value stream maps be muda (waste)? Simple, if you think the goal of value stream mapping is to create a current state map and a future state map of your process then I will stand by my statement that value stream maps are muda. The purpose of value stream mapping is not to create the maps.

The entire value stream mapping process, regardless of accuracy and number of strategic kaizen bursts identified, will just be a waste of time if you do not include an implementation plan to get to the future state and then actually act on this plan. The goal of the value stream mapping process is to achieve the future state.


Pete Abilla said...

Hi Mike,

The Lean subculture (and/or) popular culture -- in my humble assessment understand the concept value stream maps. Here's my case:

At Toyota, the word "value stream" doesn't even exist. What we used, instead, was something we called "Material and Information Flow Analysis" -- this is what Womack explicated and then called "Value Stream". Toyota and Womack's explanation stay true to the principle, but there's significant entropy after that -- hence, the Lean subculture/pop-culture.

Here's my point: The spirit of information and material flow analysis is quite simple -- how does stuff flow? where are the interruptions? what about burden on our people?

But, instead of the simple, straight-forward purpose for the tool and the principle that it supports, I'm now seeing things like "Value Stream Managers" -- what is that? What would that person do all day long?

I'm ranting now because I just came back from a conference where i spoke and I was very discouraged by all the Lean subculture/pop-culture that I witnessed and observed. And -- how far they are off the mark. In fact. I humbly stated in my speech that many good-hearted folks trying to implement Lean miss the mark -- they stumble at the elegant simplicity of it all -- It is simpler than most people think, yet it is unsimple in some ways also.

Pete Abilla said...

Wait -- I meant "misunderstand".

curiouscat said...

You are right. And your title is crazy. But also your title is technical exactly right, I think. Muda is anything that doesn't add value to the customer, right? Do they get value from your map? I don't think so.

You might be able to use the map to let you eliminate waste which might benefit the customer but...

Certainly if you could get to the same end state and eliminate the whole value stream map process that would be good. Which would seem to indicate that it is indeed waste but perhaps less wasteful that doing nothing (if it is the best way you have to get to that better state).

mindosan said...

Your point is *technically* valid, but a bit umm... extreme(?)

After all you could say the same thing about 'going to Gemba' or 'seeing waste'. These (and value stream mapping) are activities that help us identify waste. Identifying waste is useless unless I do something about it. True, but I wouldn't extend that to mean it's muda.

It's like saying P and C in the PDCA cycle are muda, without the D and A.


Mike Wroblewski said...

Thanks Pete, John and Mindosan for your comments. Yes, my title was on the extreme side to make a point. Most of the lean tools, like VSM, are simple and elegant yet we don't always use them properly. In the words of Bhagavad Gita, "The wise sees knowledge and action as one; they see truly".

Anonymous said...

Interesting article, even more interesting were the comments. I think at some point we should go back and reexamine the fundamental principles of TPS the precursor to "Lean". If you study TPS you will find that not one single "Tool” - Kanban, Kiazen, JIT, MIS(value stream) or any other is the silver bullet. They are just tools to be adapted and deployed based on the business need. At Toyota we have no black belts or special teams to implement these things... They are rooted in our culture, and that culture is based on one idea… cost reduction.

For Mike:
I'm not an expert in Lean, but I have considerable experience with TPS and I can say this; The goal of TPS is foremost to reduce cost through the elimination of waste, we do this through thorough understanding of the our current condition, analysis of the same, and then implementing measured kaizen, which translates to all you said and more. If this is not what Lean is truly about, then Lean and its practitioners are at a great disadvantage.