In a recent Lean workshop, a group of King County employees talked about understanding the current state—really grasping the situation before rushing to solutions. When people don’t really understand a problem, they could develop countermeasures that really don’t address the root cause, meaning the problem (or new ones) might reappear.
Value stream mapping is an approach that identifies each step in the process as well as key metrics for each step. This can be an effective tool for seeing the process visually in order to understand how processes really play out, to see the waste, and identify areas of opportunity.
Good value stream mapping can make visible issues like:
- Non-value added activities
- Waiting (between and within process steps)
- Flow of information
- Handoffs/motion or transportation
- Defects and rework
Value stream maps identify re-work and queue times (the wait between steps) and other metrics that measure how long each step in the process takes. Value stream maps provide more information than just a flow map that documents the steps but not the metrics.
“It can be daunting to look at a process and apply metrics,” says Lean Specialist Vicki Oyodamari, one of the facilitators of the training, “but it can also be very beneficial in helping to identify gaps and opportunities for improvement.We encouraged them to start with their own person process: the process of waking up and getting to work.”
The group learned value stream mapping and practiced by building out this “map” of their typical morning. Waking up takes four minutes and sometimes we burn our toast. Using the real process and process metrics can help us build a better morning—knowing that our long shower might be causing us to miss the bus can help us develop solutions that will actually solve problems. Instead of leaping to the solution that we should be running harder for the bus.
One of the participants, Julie Dunn, plans to use value stream mapping to identify ways to improve the hiring process for the Department of Executive Services. Dunn and her team will be looking at some of the usual measures of hiring, such as time-to-hire.
“We are also going to use the the Equity and Social Justice tool and Lean to see how the steps in our process might impact the diversity of candidates and hires. We have testing and screening steps in our hiring process that may be adversely impacting our diversity,” says Dunn.
Dunn says that this is just one hypothesis that the team will be testing. Good value stream mapping will allow Dunn and her team to see the impacts of each step in the process. “We won’t know until we do the value stream mapping and get the data.”