What Value Stream Mapping is

A value stream is the sequence of activities we undertake to deliver a customer request. Value stream mapping helps us visualize complex work systems so we can address the disconnects, redundancies, and gaps in how work gets done. A Value stream map reflects the customer’s experience, contrasted by the internal focus of process-level maps.

What we’re doing

Expose debt at risk / increase the realization of unrealized value

  • Understand how the organization manages change
  • Highlight system constraints
  • Provide a measurable basis for optimization
  • Use rational, value-based information for organizational change

Creating a VSM

Creating the value stream map is a team effort that includes everyone involved in the actual process, and is not based on following “procedure documentation”.

  • Decide on the bounds of the map
  • First pass: Discuss and document the process steps
  • Second pass: Document measurements
  • Reflect on optimization for the future state
  • Document the future state
  • Create actionable steps to implement the future state
  • Cycle and re-evaluate recurrently


  • Wait (wt): The time it takes from submission of a request till work starts.
  • Value added (v): The work time it takes to fulfill a request.
  • Unneeded non value-add (u): The time spent on irrelevant tasks.
  • Needed non value-add (n): The time spent on compliance tasks.
  • FPCA% (p): The rate at which incoming requests are deemed sufficiently correct for work to begin.
  • Lead time (l): The time it takes to fulfill a request (wt+v+u+n).
  • Waste (w): Time not spent on value-adding tasks (l - v).
  • Efficiency (e): Value added time as ratio of elapsed time and lead time (v/w).
  • True Efficiency (te): FPCA% factored in (v/p)

Conducting the session and participants

Strive to have a sponsor with executive privileges, and invite a wide representation of roles from the organization that contribute to the delivery of software from “concept to cash”.

Ideal participant roles:

  • Application owner
  • Business Product manager/owner
  • Project manager
  • Application architect
  • Platform architect
  • Development lead
  • QA lead
  • UX lead
  • Infrastructure lead
  • Ops lead
  • Compliance lead
  • Security lead
  • Performance lead
  • Deployment lead
  • CAB representative
  • Customer support representative

Setting the scope for the sessions

  • Select the process to be mapped
  • Define the extent of the process to be covered. Optimally, it would be “concept to production” to see the end-to-end flow of work.
  • Selecting a limited scope may lead to misinformed local optimization.
  • Selecting a large scope will be rewarding, but logistically challenging.

Creating and using the VSM

  • Collect the data and create the map for the current state
  • Detail all the steps in the workflow, recording the measured parameters for each step
  • Connect the steps, including ‘reject paths’ to show cycle between steps and groups
  • Reflect on the current state
  • Look for possible local optimizations, using the measured attributes, which may include adding as well as removing steps
  • Create an alternate, future state VSM with proof that it produces value more efficiently
  • Create an action plan to implement the new VSM
  • Cycle and measure the impact of the new VSM

Here is an example in a data sheet:


Use the results to eliminate waste

A non-exhaustive list of first steps:

  • Create a frictionless path to production
  • Treat bugs as non value adding waste
  • Eliminate partially completed work - reduce work in progress (WIP)
  • Reduce task switching. Do one thing, allocate people to a single task
  • Remove non-value self-imposed rules
  • Reduce handoffs (feature-based teams)
  • Reduce delays between teams (pull system for needed roles)