How would you go about identifying your value streams?
I’m thinking a first-pass, depth-first search to draft an initial hierarchy, the current state.
An antipattern I’ve seen is trying to start with an assumed target not well understood and based in wishful thinking.
How would you approach this? Who needs to be involved in the analysis?
This is a great question and it's much more challenging with knowledge work than manufacturing. This is one of the main reasons why I started doing outcome mapping before value stream mapping. By starting from what we want it's easier to discover what's involved in the current state, which is our best starting point to get to our desired future state.
I think there are two separate questions hidden here.
Part of this is answered in 'How Detailed Should Your Value Stream Be?' here:
I'm not sure what you mean by a depth-first search but I'll assume you mean what level we want to look at (operational or development, and deeper if necessary). Your anti-pattern assumption is correct, but even picking depth is based on assumption if there isn't clarity on the desired outcome. Even reframing 'testing is too slow' to 'we want faster feedback' changes the focus significantly, so investing in a clear outcome understanding saves time and headaches.
The advantage of starting with an outcome, even if you want to understand all of your value streams, clearly explaining why, the obstacles in the way, investigations you can do, measures of progress, and methods to accomplish takes the effort from a big question down to a clear game plan you can share with anyone.
If we map out 'we want to understand our value streams' we can go at it with a lot of clarity and the rest of the task falls into place.
I hope it's becoming clear how this can narrow the gap between not knowing and acting with confidence. You can use the same method for mapping all streams at a specific level (higher is better to start), or discovering what stream to target.
I've put more context about outcomes in 'How do you get from a desired outcome to a target value stream?' of Outcome Mapping 101 for future reference, since the targeting question comes up a lot.
To properly scope a single map, starting from the customer and then working all the way backwards to the initial spark that kicks the process into motion is the most complete range, and a good practice to ensure you don't miss a hidden bottleneck. Another way to look at the holistic scope is to start at when the process starts costing you money and go until it starts making you money (or at least until you create something a customer would pay for, in the case of a subscription or deferred payment).
Ultimately, you can scope based on an informed assumption of what the most valuable scope is, but this may take experience and context you don't have. This is why starting high, and starting broad is a good idea. You can always stop and zoom in, but in the worst case you will have spent just a couple of hours learning more about your organization. I don't see a huge downside to starting in the wrong place.
As for who, you want clear representation from across the value stream to paint the most accurate picture of what's really happening. I've detailed the approach and context here, in 'The Who of Value Stream Mapping'
I want to sincerely thank you for the question! You prompted me to write out a lot of what I've talked about elsewhere but never collected here. I truly hope it's helpful and answers your questions sufficiently, but if there's anything I missed let me know in a comment and I'll jump on it!
Thanks for this detailed and thoughtful answer, Steve!
My question is also about understanding the 'hierarchy' of value streams and what team dependencies exist in the current state (where teams are not necessarily aligned to streams..).
I really enjoyed How Detailed Should Your Value Stream Map Be? but this seems to assume the product and customer are already identified to some degree.
Here I'm starting somewhat from scratch trying to reconfirm products in scope.
By depth first, I mean going down the hierarchy, something like:
Investment Bank -> Equity -> Corporate/Stock Trading
I want to find all the value streams under the Investment Bank and corresponding teams before considering other parts of the business.
So your advice to start from the customer is great, with a lot of tinkering for shared services/value streams.. where the product view becomes critical it seems!
The problem is how to make this 'complete', but clearly an iterative process. Maybe a good first milestone in that sense is to find the main value streams for all existing teams.
Hope this makes sense.
Definitely makes sense!
Something that may help kick start the effort is to start from the customer (or wherever) in a value chain view by linking what you assume are the current streams, and then closing and filling in the gaps, like this:
You can shop something like this around (even easier via a collaborative whiteboard) to have a number of people weigh in and help complete the picture.
I would say in this context the X axis is less relevant, but you could repurpose it to represent 'newer to older' as a proxy for commoditization and to give some simpler clarity to outsiders coming in to look at it.
It could get very busy but you can use varied colors and even multiple copies to represent different divisions etc which could then be overlaid either within the whiteboard or with transparency using a simple graphic design app like pixlr.com
Does that seem like a good idea?
Thank you Steve, this is excellent!
You're spot on the need for distributed collaboration on this. And putting the customer on the diagram is liberating! how often do we do that?
Will try and experiment with that, with on a diagram
Then showing the value stream has a group of customers/producs/teams in a domain.
that very much looks like a Wardley map view of the world - which I'm a big fan of.
Brice you should check out the work from Nick Tune on this topic as well - lots of great inspiration on his Medium page, he also has a book he's writing on this topic.
Thanks Chris, looking forward to Nick Tunes book!
@Chris Combe Nick Tune is a great mind in this arena! Glad you found this material valuable! You've got a good eye, that is a simplified Wardley Map format :] I've been working them into my process to show larger, more strategic illustration
@Brice Beard I'd love to see any maps you're putting together - feel free to play with any layers, domains, scale, measurements that seem useful. Once you have a basic structure to hang everything off of, it's totally up to you what gets added and how all the data is represented. The audience (the customer of the map!) really dictates the contents and result.