Let’s set the stage. The team has just completed what many call a flow kaizen – in which the focus is the flow of materials, patients, customers, etc. and information. Hopefully, the team has generated certain outputs, including a current and future state value stream map and the all important value stream improvement plan (VSIP).

We know that the value stream analysis isn’t about making pretty maps and plans. It’s about defining, at about a 20,000 foot altitude and 80% accuracy, a future state for a specific date (typically 6 or 12 months out or so) and the roadmap for getting there. The roadmap is the VSIP (think Gantt chart plus) and it should be comprised of specific kaizen events, projects and “just-do-its.”

Often, sometime after the flow kaizen report-out, the hangover kicks in. It might not be instantaneous. Heck, it might take weeks or months to manifest itself. But, when it does come, it lasts a lot longer than the hangover induced by drinking too many adult beverages.

So, if you think that you’ve never experienced the hangover, let me explain some of the symptoms. They might ring a bell.

Amnesia. As in who am I, how did I get here and what the heck am I supposed to do? These are questions often expressed by the value stream manager. Too often this person is “anointed” sometime during the actual value stream analysis. You know, when leadership finally figures out that this value stream analysis seems like a pretty big deal and the book or the coach says that we should have a value stream manager. This manager is typically a line person with ownership of a portion of the value stream (but often not the whole thing). Their job is to drive VSIP execution and make the future state map a reality. No small task. It’s a really good idea for the executive lean leaders to carefully select the value stream manager BEFORE the value stream analysis based upon certain core (think change management, focus and accountability, etc.) and technical competencies (some level of lean expertise, process knowledge, project management skills, etc.). The value stream manager will also need coaching, resources and support (including the steering committee).

Apathy. Question: If you ignore the VSIP, does it execute itself? Answer: No! The value stream manager and other lean leaders need to apply at least monthly checkpoints and other rigor to ensure that the accountable folks (yes, the VSIP has to have names and dates) are getting the right stuff done at the right time. Will the VSIP need to be retooled because you didn’t know what you didn’t know when you developed it? Yes! So you have to be flexible, but dogged. And you’ll have to deal with human resource development issues along with the technical.

Confusion and Disorientation. This symptom really kicks in when the value stream analysis was not performed well or thoroughly. For example, it’s not rare for folks to map more than one product or service family on one map (confusing!), blow off the time ladder, rolled throughput line, data boxes, and/or VSIP, post fuzzy, ill-defined kaizen bursts, develop a future state map that’s really not very lean, not anticipate the best sequence of activities within the VSIP, not assign owners to the VSIP elements, etc. You get the picture. It’s like drinking lots of bad tequila AND eating the worm.

Fixation. Sometimes the organization will become fixated with the VSIP, put their head down and just execute it. It may not sound like a bad thing, but the lean leaders must also be cognizant of the outputs…as in we’re executing to drive the numbers (compress lead times, increase rolled throughput yield, etc.) It’s a “both and” type of thing. Often it makes sense to use bowling charts to help people also focus on the numbers.

Do any of these symptoms sound familiar? I’m sure that I’m missing some. Feel free to share your experiences. Remember, value stream map responsibly.

Related posts: Why Bowling Charts? Trajectory Matters, Value (Stream) Delivery – What about the family?