Running a Value Stream Mapping Workshop

Have you moved around your office building, walking by each team that are part of your value stream to understand how work flows in your organization? This could be an approach that makes the theoretical exercise of value stream mapping more tangible and easier to understand.

A value stream mapping workshop can be done as a Gemba-walk to really understand the actual process and identify waste in the value stream. When that is not possible, the next best thing is working together on a white board or a virtual board.

In the book “Value Stream Mapping, How to Visualize Work, and Align Leadership for Organizational Transformation” Karen Martin and Mike Osterling suggest that we take 3 full days in a workshop with all the right stakeholders involved.

They suggest to spend one day each on the topic of understanding the current state, design the future and develop the transformation plan.

Before and after comes preparations and execution of the transformation plan.

They actually claim, in the book that they have yet to see a successful value stream mapping workshop when it does not involve all stakeholders and contains all the steps.

I believe that they are right in many ways. Still we agreed in my team of coaches to do it differently. The reason for that was an evaluation of the current maturity level of the organization.

We all agree that this is valuable, but with little to no awareness of what this actually is all about, it will be hard do get the buy in. Therefore we decided to experiment and learn with the teams we are currently coaching and at the same time work on raising awareness in the organization. This might turn out to be a completely wrong decision, but the way we have decided to start.

Alternative Approaches

I have tried alternative approaches, both in the organization I am currently part of but also from previous assignments in other organizations, some of the alternatives I have tried are;

  • Small group of key stakeholders / decision makers, only focusing on a specific area of the IT Organization
  • Whole organizational area with key stakeholders / decision makers including team members from multiple teams
  • One area within the IT Organization with key stakeholders / decision makers including team members from multiple teams and business side

Which of these has worked out the best? I believe they all have served their purpose for the people involved. However the approaches where a wider range of key stakeholders are involved are in my opinion most efficient when it comes to gaining a common understanding of the current situation and agree on the pain points.

Even if there are many people and teams involved and not everyone are actively participating in the discussions, the fact that they are present and can listen in on the discussion helps building that common understanding and getting everyone on the same page. For this reason only I believe it is worth the experience of including as many relevant stakeholders as possible.

It does however, require more of the workshop facilitator.

Workshop Structure

For the next Value Stream Mapping workshop that I will be running, I have suggested a series of workshops. There are several reasons for this, one of them is that we are working remote / online and I would like to avoid too long sessions. The series I want to pre-schedule to reserve the time and ensure that not too much time passes between each workshop.

Before the initial workshop

I try to schedule the first workshop well in advance to ensure availability of stakeholders, but also to ensure that we give ourselves enough time to properly prepare the stakeholders in advance.

The things I focus on are;

  • Identify all stakeholders to be part of the Value Stream Mapping Workshop
  • Ensure business and other stakeholders understand what Value Stream Mapping is and how this can help them to get better business outcomes
  • Agree with key stakeholders who should join the different workshops
  • Send invites to all participants and include homework to be done before the initial workshop
  • Ensure the starting point and level of mapping has been agreed.

The workshop series

In a series of four two hour workshops the stakeholders and teams will work together to form a clear idea of the current value stream and the pain points. This will be basis for some alternatives or options that will be presented in the final workshop. As part of the final workshop the teams will agree on the right next step and based on this a new series of workshops will be set up to form some hypothesis of suggested improvements and intended impact. These will form an improvement backlog that will over time transform the value stream into a future state co-created by the teams.

Workshop 1: Map the Value Stream
  • Everyone has a short introduction to Value Stream Mapping
  • The complete Value Stream is mapped out

Between workshop 1 and 2

  • Individually, all participants will highlight areas that they think are unclear, need more information, and that they would like to map out further/focus on for the next workshop. This is done as homework by the participants.
  • Cleanup the VSM and clarify any things that are unclear
Workshop 2: Detail the Value Stream Map
  • Include a smaller group of key stakeholders
  • The team is up-to-date with the latest changes applied after last workshop.
  • Further mapping of the area identified as focus area
Workshop 3: Detail the Value Stream Map
  • Include a smaller group of key stakeholders
  • The team is up-to-date with the latest changes applied after last workshop.
  • Further mapping of the area identified as focus area
Workshop 4: Summary of findings and recommendations
  • Walkthrough of the result of the workshop series and point out specific pain-points and recommendations

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