Analyzing the System through Value Stream Mapping

Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

In any organization, there exist a multitude of processes and activities, and it’s not always clear how the work groups are connected to one another. Each group can optimize its processes, but how does that impact the overall organization?

In helping organizations become more agile, I get to learn about the various ways that people inside and outside of the technology group do their work and how that work fits together. How does value flow through the organization to customers? In order to be more aligned, efficient, and able to pivot, a clear understanding of current processes and activities is needed.

That’s where value stream mapping helps.

I recently facilitated a value stream mapping exercise with representatives from all parts of an organization, IT and non-IT. After explaining the concept and goals of value stream mapping, the group started outlining at the whiteboard how they work today. The first version was high-level and showed how work flowed from one group to another before reaching the customer. A more detailed version highlighted the variety of tools used to manage work at various stages and the complexity of the system. Processes existed for many different workflows, and it was difficult for the group to create a clear visual of how value flowed through the organization. Realizing how difficult it was to see the full system was a powerful discovery on its own. And even without a perfect visual, potential problems and gaps became apparent that could be addressed.

Inevitably in any organization, there are handoffs between groups, redundant activities, and complicated processes. The ability to recognize those potential areas of waste can be difficult. In introducing techniques like value stream mapping, we are enabling transparency across work groups and the ability to make decisions that optimize the whole system rather than component areas. An entire organization can increase its agility when its employees understand how their work fits into the big picture and are able to adapt their work to better achieve the organization’s goals. That’s incredible.

So if you want to help your organization be more agile, consider facilitating a value stream mapping workshop. Invite representatives from the respective work groups, introduce the concepts and goals, walk through an example value stream map, and watch what emerges from the group.


Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.