What are value streams?

Value streams refer to the steps required from start to finish to accomplish something. There are many different types of value streams, but all have the main concepts in common. Value streams shift the focus from the people doing the work to the work being done, both its sequence and timing. There are many different ways of classifying value steams. For our purposes, we’ll classify them as:

  1. customer value stream
  2. value-enabling value streams
  3. operational value streams
  4. development value stream networks

    Operational value streams are the workflows for the internal process of the company. These activities include buying and maintaining a server network, stocking shelves, HR, and Legal.

    Development value streams are the value streams creating the ones just mentioned. However, they are not linear as the others are and are better thought of as value stream networks. But the concepts and what to look for in them are very similar.

    Operational value streams are the workflows for the internal process of the company. These activities include buying and maintaining a server network, stocking shelves, HR, and Legal.

    Development value streams are the value streams creating the ones just mentioned. However, they are not linear as the others are and are better thought of as value stream networks. But the concepts and what to look for in them are very similar.

    The Benefits of Attending to Value streams

    “Attending to value streams” means:

    • be aware of them
    • notice how they interact with each other
    • when making a change, see how it will affect the overall productivity in the value stream

    Consider how Apple has changed how many of us listen to music now. By creating products and systems, that people used, the customer value streams changed. This interaction between the customer and the products and services provided is called the customer journey. While we cannot directly define the customers’ value streams, we can strongly influence them by attending to the customer journey. This creates the possibility of providing value to the customer by attending to how they work and not just how our system works.

    The operational values streams provide us with methods to deliver, deploy, support, market, and maintain our products and services. Improving our development value stream networks can speed time to market, lower our costs, and deliver better products.

    This book is primarily about the development value stream network that the team is embedded in. We will learn to work on smaller items, focus on removing delays, avoid overloading people in the value streams, and get people to be in one value stream to avoid multi-tasking. Flow, Lean, and the Theory of Constraints all attend to the value stream for several reasons. Mapping value stream networks:

    1. provide visibility on what is being worked on and how
    2. illuminate the delays in value add. These delays also create waste in the process
    3. illuminate the constraints in the system

    An Inherent Problem

    Most organizations are organized in hierarchies to manage the work. But the workflows across the organization. This has us manage one way while increasing the value delivery requires us to manage another way.

    Managing within a hierarchy

    Hierarchies tend to have those responsible for the hierarchy see if the people under them are:

    1. working on the right things
    2. working well
    3. fully occupied

    This seems so natural we don’t even think about it. But it also means the focus is on the silo, not across the workflow. This results in delays when handoffs are made between the siloes. It also means cooperation between the siloes typically takes second priority to the flow between the siloes.

    Reflect for a moment on projects you’ve seen in the past. Let’s look at both the people doing the work and the work itself (that is, when it is being worked on and when it is waiting to be worked on). See if what you notice matches the following table. Feel free to add to it.

    Watching the people Watching the workflow

    ·    people are busy

    ·    they are multi-tasking mostly because they are both interrupted and have to wait for others

    ·    their focus is on their own work

    ·    people are measured on how busy they are, not on how much overall value is being done

    ·    the work starts and stops

    ·    work items spend time in queues

    ·    no one is managing the work itself

    ·    work is tracked where it is, but how much time work spends waiting is not tracked

     

    When we look at the people doing the work we are focusing on local steps in the workflow. This is the biggest difference between waterfall and Flow/Lean. In waterfall, we try to maximize the efficiency of the work at each step. The presupposition is that we can do this. Flow and Lean have us look at how long it takes to go from concept to consumption. Because people are busy and working on many things, a project that would take one month if all the people working on it worked on just it can easily take six months to accomplish when they are busy working on other things.

    The actual cost of multi-tasking.

    Many people point to multi-tasking as a significant problem. It is a significant one, but not the key one. Consider the cause of multi-tasking – people working in multiple value streams. People are being interrupted and are interrupting others. Correlated with multi-tasking is work waiting in queues. While multi-tasking may cause a 10-20% drop in efficiency, work waiting in queues can create unplanned work in the form of bugs, working on the wrong things, rework, etc., that is much larger.

    Focus on delays – not eliminate waste

    A common Lean mantra is “eliminate waste.” The problem is that mantra comes from looking at manufacturing. In this context, you can see waste. A car is being built, and errors are visible. Planning can be considered waste because you already know what to do. In knowledge work, the situation is different. First, you can see everything. You often don’t know when you have an error or not. Also, things like design and planning are not wasteful. Overdesign and planning are, but these are still necessary functions. On the other hand, re-doing requirements, working from old ones, building unneeded features, fixing bugs, overbuilding frameworks, duplicating components, and integration errors are wasteful.

    These wasteful activities have delays in getting the information and using it or in making an error and detecting it as the common cause of the error. This is yet another reason for quick feedback and reduced delays. The mantra needs to change from “eliminate waste” to “eliminate delays in the workflow.”

    Getting executives to understand the value of quick flow

    Here’s a way to get executives to understand the value of focusing on shortening the time of delivery. Let’s pretend we have an enhancement to a product that was very important to your company and that took six months to build but would have taken only two months if the people working on it had focused on just it. Imagine you asked one of your top executives: “would it have been worth paying 20% more to have gotten this enhancement out the door in two months instead of in six?” He’d almost certainly say “sure.” But now ask yourself, how would you get to do it in two months instead of in six? You’d have to cut down the delays between steps. Doing so might require adding a little slack to the system, but other than that, removing delay is more likely to reduce a lot of unplanned work. In other words, instead of taking longer to reduce the build time to deployment, it’d take less time to get it out the door.

    This shows another shift that’s needed: stop focusing on the utilization of people and focus on removing delays in the workflow.

    What Analyzing the Inherent Problem Teaches Us

    • Shift our focus from people to the work
    • Don’t manage hierarchies; manage the value stream
    • Don’t try to go faster, work on having fewer and smaller queues
    • Align people around value to be realized
    • Shift from focusing on the utilization of people to removing delays in the workflow.

    Go to Amplio@Teams: The Path to Effective Lean-Agile Teams

    Go to Being a Professional Coach 

     

     

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