Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Resist The Tendency To Skip The Current State Map For Real Improvement

A reader who recently watched “The Secrets to Creating an Effective Value StreamMap Webinar” asked when is okay to skip the current state map.

A value-stream map is a visual depiction of the flow of materials and information that provide the customer with a product or service. It also describes the lead time of various operations and can be used as a starting point for analyzing necessary activities and the amount of waste in the value stream. A current state value-stream map depicts the current situation as is. A future state value-stream map depicts what the value stream should look like after planned improvements have been implemented. Value-stream mapping is a useful tool for grasping the current situation and for planning improvements.

There is a tendency to skip mapping the current state and go directly to the future state map. But if we don’t understand the current process, we can’t really make intelligent decisions about how the future current state might or should look. A lot of companies want to skip the development of the current state map and get right into brainstorming ideas for improvement. We must reduce this impulse.

Skipping the current state map is like building a house without surveying the land or visiting the site.  Doing so can lead to a home that can’t be built and an upset homeowner.

The key to creating an excellent current state values stream map is to document what you actually see with your own eyes. We are not interested in how the process is supposed to work, or was designed to work. Always collect current-state information while walking the actual process to understand the real flow. You will uncover more going to the Gemba.

Too many Lean practitioners skip value stream analysis and jump right to identifying specific sources of waste and removing them. Unfortunately, as they note, this often results in local improvements, but rarely results in significant overall improvements in the overall value stream or in improved products for customers. To really have an impact, you need to begin by streamlining the entire value stream, and only after that, drill down into specific processes to eliminate waste.

The current state allows us to “see” the waste which enables us to develop future state value stream maps, identify opportunities for improvement, and initiate improvement action plans. If you don’t do the Current State, you might never find your waste and once you do one and find the waste, it give you a platform for continuous improvement.

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  1. You can go fast and skip steps (then have to do it over anyway) or you can follow the process and do it right with results that are sustainable.

  2. Great post, Tim. I run into too many groups that don't want to map the current state or want to have one person do it and just verify it with the group (better than nothing, I guess). Groups need to understand where they are starting from before you can design any kind of future state.

    Ignoring the current state is exactly what was preached in "Reengineering the Corporation." Companies ended up going into bankruptcy or losing a lot of money by doing this.

    There is good in the current state. It must be understood so as to not repeat the past.

    Michael Hammer later realized this and changed his opinion to needing to understand the current state.

    Also, I have found the designing the future state and what needs to be done goes quicker when there is a deep understanding of the current state.

  3. Skipping the current state is not much of a shortcut when you consider the lost learning. It is hard to improve something you don't understand. As is said, assumption makes a fool out of you and me. Use facts, collect direct information, and observe first hand the situation in front of you.