Most readers will agree that a good product, feature, or solution means that end users are able to interact effectively with it – and that this successful experience is highly dependent on the people who create the solution. This means that those creators must interact effectively with each other–and the tools and technologies they use to do their jobs–to create the solution. Effective interactions in turn, rely on organizational processes acting as enablers to getting the work done, not impediments.
The only way that we can design effective interactions to deliver successful solutions is by looking at the entire system that is used to create the product or solution. Otherwise, the solution runs a high risk of not meeting customer needs. The system I’m talking about is called the Value Stream.
The value stream includes the people, processes, tools, and the technologies that people use to do work and ultimately – if all goes as planned – create value for the customer.
Understanding the value stream & working to improve it is crucial. Most of the biggest challenges occur across the system, between departments and people – which is largely invisible today because for the most part, each department has its own metrics they measure… no one is tending to the value stream or overall system metrics. This gap can cause organizational performance to suffer and people to lose sight of customer needs in favor of their own siloed success.
At Xpirit, we might start off our engagements and assessments with an interactive workshop, tailored for the problem and engagement needs. This can take the form of a value stream mapping or process mapping workshop, where the consultants and client get together and talk through the current system and its challenges; then envision a desired future state.
This gets everyone on the same page about the current system (oftentimes the end-to-end system and interactions have never been visualized before); aligns people on the challenges they face; and then we exit with a shared agreement of the top challenges and how to solve them. This might seem elementary, but few people (if any) would have this view into the system.
Here’s how Value Stream Mapping can revolutionize the way we work and deliver exceptional outcomes.
- Making the Invisible, Visible: Software is a realm where much is invisible. From build pipelines to complex processes, interactions between people, as well as dependencies, achieving a holistic understanding of the system can be challenging. VSM allows us to visualize the end-to-end process, uncover hidden constraints, facts, and assumptions; and identify areas for improvement.
- Embracing Multiple Perspectives: VSM brings together a diverse group of stakeholders. In a complex process, a single individual cannot possess all the knowledge of the system. By involving a variety of perspectives and people, we open the door to enabling collective intelligence to emerge. With multiple viewpoints at the table, we can uncover blind spots, challenge assumptions, and uncover novel solutions that may have otherwise been overlooked.
- Achieving Alignment: As humans, we tend to think our perspective on the system is correct and rarely challenge our assumptions. Bringing people together in one place to talk through what each person notices can help counteract biases and help everyone align on what they see as challenges. And when people are aligned on next steps, we’re not working against each other.
- Continuous Improvement: Value Stream Mapping is not a one-time exercise but an ongoing commitment to continuous improvement. It provides a structured framework for identifying waste and optimizing the overall system. Through regular VSM sessions, we can track our progress, measure the impact of process changes, and foster a culture of continuous learning and growth within our organizations.
The feedback I got from a recent client session summarizes what many people say after this experience:
“It felt very different than anything I have ever done before. I was leery before the session, but at some point during the workshop, it began to make sense. We need to understand where we are now, before we can improve. And we need to get out of our current thinking to get to where we want to be, so that we can make real improvements to our system. I enjoyed being a part of the session and it was worthwhile.”
I told him, “Yes! It’s also about alignment of the problems and solutions. You have been working in this system for a while. It exists for a reason. Without context or honoring why things are the way they are, we risk breaking the system. Plus, we will be working with you in order to accomplish our joint goals. What better way to make sure we all have understood the system and agree on next steps?”
If you want to know more about Value Stream Mapping, don’t hesitate to reach out!