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8 Key Steps of Developing A Value Stream Map

Our previous posts were concerned with defining Value Stream Mapping (VSM) and describing the benefits for an organization to go through the VSM process. Now that you are convinced of the value of this process, here are eight key steps that you need to follow to develop a VSM.

1. Organize the Team

In order to fully understand the process you will be mapping out, you must first organize a team of subject matter experts (SME's). You will need representation from various groups that daily interact with this particular process. For instance, if you are looking to map out a production line, you will need individuals from production, supply chain, logistics, maintenance, and engineering on the team.

2. Observe the Current State of the Process

Once the team is organized, you will want to go and physically walk through the process. You might say, "why does a team that engages this process daily need to physically go out and walk through the it?" The simplest of answers is you can never assume that you know everything about the process, because if you do, you will surely miss something and therefore, have inadequate data to map.

3. Document Every Step of the Process

As the team walks through the process from beginning to end - from raw materials entering the plant all the way to products being shipped to customers - it is important for each team member to write down everything they see and don't see. Collect all the data you can, because you can never have too much information. Look carefully for activities within the process that might be wasteful (i.e., the staging of materials, the movements of employees, the time it takes to produce the product, etc.), and make note of them, because you will need that data for step 5 in the process.

4. Create the Current State

Now that you have all the data, it is time to map out the current state of the process. This is a "pencil to paper" activity, so it is important to have enough space to map out the entire process. We typically use a large blank wall in a conference or training room and put butcher paper or pages from a flip chart along the wall. On this paper you will list every step of the process from beginning to end, making sure not to miss any activity that takes place within the process.

5. Identify the Waste In the Current Process

Once you have the current state mapped out, it is time to evaluate what is on the wall and the notes you made while walking through the process, for the purpose of uncovering wasteful activity. Even if you think the activity is necessary, go ahead and make note of it.

6. Create the Future State

What would the perfect process look like? How could you decrease the amount of unnecessary waste and increase margin and customer satisfaction? Just as you mapped out the Current State on the wall, now it is time to map out this ideal future state of the process. This is your opportunity to dream big!

7. List Opportunities for Improvement

Now that you understand your current state and what the future state could be, it is time to start listing out opportunities for improvements to help get the process to the future state. Clearly articulate and prioritize the opportunities and what is needed to achieve improvement.

8. Assign Tasks and Responsibilities

It is now time to act! Once you are satisfied that you have all the opportunities for improvement listed and prioritized, assign tasks and responsibilities to members of the team. Everyone needs to be clear on what they are tasked to do, what resources are available to support them, and when it is expected to be completed.

Done rightly, the VSM typically takes about 2-3 days to complete. However, its value is found in the cross-functional collaboration and continuous improvement it promotes. If you are interested in getting third-party support for a Value Stream Mapping event, please reach out to us at 423.521.5876 or


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