The Post-Value Stream Analysis Hangover

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?

There are 2 Comments

markrhamel's picture

Hi Mark,

Man, sounds like you had a very bad experience! Sorry, to hear about that. I've seen the mayhem from plenty of kamikaze kaizen events. I don't doubt that it was ugly.

However, I don't want to risk throwing out the baby with the bathwater. In order to achieve that which is reflected in future state value stream maps (pretty much a staple for holistic improvement planning), there's typically at least a handful of kaikaku level improvements. These improvements are usually done through kaizen events and projects and serve as an important foundation. Daily, true kaizen (small continuous improvement) won't close gaps anytime soon.

That said, The Shingo model talks about transitioning from tool-driven kaizen (kind of indiscriminate application of kaizen events...very bad) to system-driven kaizen (kaizen events as pulled by things like value stream improvement plans) to ultimately principle-driven kaizen (system-driven kaizen, plus daily kaizen - frequent, small kaizen done by an empowered and engaged workforce). Daily kaizen, in the end should be the vehicle for the majority of improvements. However, often the way an organization first learns how to kaizen, and make significant improvements, is through well-executed and sustained system-driven kaizen (as supplemented by a build-as-you-go lean management system).

In any circumstance, we need to be sensitive to the prevailing culture and be thoughtful in the way that we implement lean. Implementation considerations includes leadership alignment and commitment, training, typical change management stuff (proof of the need, vision, communication, guiding coalition, etc.) and the application of an implementation strategy. That strategy, one which I am a proponent of, is often a pilot to initial deployment to full scale deployment path. This method allows for the proving out of technical issues, the identification and addressing of technical scalability and human resource development issues, among other things. Pilot site selection should consider local leadership and culture, implementation difficulty and impact. Also, there's got to be a robust management of change process once you get to into the initial deployment process so it's not (to borrow a quote I heard today) "copy, paste" but "copy, kaizen" as you deploy the improvements.

I could continue and ultimately get into a guns don't kill people etc., kaizen event analogy. Mark, please feel free to send me an email if you would like. Perhaps we can chat on the phone (don't want to give out my cell here) later.

Best regards,

Mark Welch's picture

At our hospital we used to to traditional Kaizen events like you have described and the lingering effects were very much as you discussed, too. In fact, I once described myself as a "recovering eventaholic." Let me explain that further...

When our hospital learned about lean, we had the best of intentions. The problem was, we tried to cut, copy, and paste the kaizen event style of continuous improvement from another hospital, and it was 2 and 4-day kaizen events. We were not sensitive to the culture of our own hospital, and after 2.5 years we hit the wall. Our staff was angry, frustrated, and vocal about it. We are still feeling the aftereffects. I hope the kaizen event method is well-received by your people and that it fits your culture. From the sounds of the blogposts, it sounds like perhaps it does. For me, that is one mistake that I know I will NOT make again. Kaizen events can be good for LEARNING lean, but unless it fits the culture and management/staff buy into it, I wouldn't go there - wouldn't even LOOK in that direction.