Who participates in mapping?

It’s important to involve representation from at least the responsible and accountable parties within a given value stream. That means if design is a part of the stream, there should be someone from design present during mapping. That also means that leadership and those who are able to change the system, workflow, and team must be present and involved. Once you identify your key bottlenecks, you can narrow the involved parties to those who are critical to those areas, but until the number of people exceeds a manageable 12 (for a professional facilitator), it’s better to include as many voices and perspectives as possible.

In order to get the highest quality information about the stream, it helps to have 2 voices from each role in order to get a second opinion. If one engineer states it takes 20 minutes to code review, it could be because they're thinking of a section of the code they know very well, or simply being optimistic. Having a senior and junior perspective can be very valuable to paint a more accurate picture of the value stream.

In the case of a large, complex stream like a large, monolithic product, you may have legal reviews, marketing consultations, graphic design, etc. If they're in the stream, they should be on the map, but if including them brings you to an uncomfortable headcount it may be wise to request their data directly prior to the mapping session and then plugging it in. You can use the following format for a survey:

[Product X release process]

  1. Which activities do you perform in the [Product X release process]?
  2. For each activity, thinking of what has happened the last few occurrences, on average:
    1. What triggers the start of the activity? [e.g. Jira Ticket from Role Y, a meeting, a direct verbal request, etc]
    2. How long does the work sit before you can act on it? [e.g. in a queue, or inbox, etc]
    3. How long does the activity take from start to finish? [e.g. from the time you start looking at it to when you hand it off to the next activity or transition to another activity]
    4. How much of that time is time spent working on the task? [e.g. not waiting for things to load, looking up context, trial and error, etc]
    5. How often do you have to send the work back to a previous step because of an issue? [e.g. missing information, unclear instructions, etc]
    6. How long does the work sit completed before the next role picks it up? [If you know]
  3. What do you feel is the biggest bottleneck in the process at the moment?
  4. What do you feel is the largest contributor to that bottleneck?

As you can see, it can be a lot of information to collect and synthesize, but the biggest issue is not knowing it. If a survey seems like too much work or a hard sell, you can also complete the value stream mapping in phases with different stakeholders.

This scoping and participation challenge exists only when the value stream itself is too large and cumbersome, which is something we can address through mapping! By moving to smaller, more autonomous, stream-aligned teams, you can map faster, easier, and at higher quality.

Who guides this process?

It pays to have skilled, outside facilitation for this process for a few reasons: A perspective from outside the organization is far less likely to bring an agenda, bias, or political influence to the process, which will drive superior results. A skilled facilitator knows where to dig, and when to move on. They will know what questions to ask, and what seems like a strange measurement based on experience with other teams. All of that saves valuable time and maximizes value. Gathering a team can be expensive if you’re not getting value from the session, and it can impact morale and trust to waste time. A skilled facilitator can likely complete a session in half the time, while keeping the team engaged. You may find you have skilled facilitators right now as agile coaches, scrum facilitators, dojo trainers, community of practice leads, or teachers. It’s ok to pilot the process with a facilitator and team willing to try and learn!