Value Streams Are Everywhere
Value stream management principles have helped organizations across the globe leverage lean strategies to optimize their software development processes. However, the benefits from effectively managing value streams are not limited to only software. Value streams exist all around us whether we realize it or not. From a mother bird diligently catching and delivering a fish to her young hatchlings, to construction workers transforming a pothole-filled road into an asphalt masterpiece, each of these value-driving activities involve a step-by-step process to effectively deliver the end product.
The goal of this blog post is to help explain how value stream management works in the context of software delivery by applying VSM concepts to an activity we experience every day. I will take a specific example from my own life, and discuss how I visualize this personal value stream and analyze the key metrics associated with it. I will then attempt to optimize my value stream by eliminating waste, orchestrating my workflow, and creating governance models.
The Value Stream
Some of us are morning people. Some of us are not. Regardless, whether we are always early to rise or consistently scrambling to get out the door on time, we all have a typical morning routine. This is where I will be focusing my process. My morning routine starts in my bed and finishes at my computer, with the end goal being that I will begin work on time. What happens in the middle is what will be evaluated in this exercise using the following three steps: visualizing, analyzing, and optimizing.
Visualizing Using A Value Stream Map
The first step is to visualize my routine by mapping out my morning routine value stream. This is crucial because I cannot effectively assess what I don’t know. In software delivery, this step is typically done during a whiteboarding session with a representative from every function/team. Since I am evaluating my personal routine, this was able to be completed in a one-man whiteboarding session.
From that intensive session, below is the value stream map for my morning routine (assuming that the trash is full), color coded by stage:
Analyzing Lean Metrics
After mapping out my value stream, the next step is to collect and analyze the associated metrics. For this exercise, the metrics I will focus on are my estimated Cycle Time (average time from first touch → close) and Flow Time (average time in each stage).
Estimated Average Flow Time
|Early Morning||40 Mins|
|Work Prep||25 Mins|
Estimated Cycle Time = 150 Mins (2.5 Hrs)
Optimize My Processes
Now it is time to use the information from the map and metrics to optimize my morning routine. Ultimately, value stream management is a human activity. This step is where the critical thinking muscles in the brain can begin to flex. Below are some data-driven decisions using the above resources that can positively impact my morning routine:
- Eliminating Waste – I can eliminate the ~3 minutes it takes to make the coffee by preparing it the night before, and simply hit the “brew” switch in the morning. I can also consider purchasing a fogless mirror so I can combine the “Shaving” & “Shower” steps, shaving off a couple minutes from the transition between activities. Investing in a sprinkler system could terminate the ~5 mins of the “Water Plants” step entirely, though my lease terms would need to be reviewed before taking this action.
- Workflow Orchestration – If I do not need to help my wife carry any items, then I could possibly move “Take Out Trash” in front of “Finish Coffee.” The process could work more efficiently, as I can bring the trash out as I walk with her. (However, this needs to be evaluated against any sanitary regulations my wife has set.) I can also evaluate shifting “Make the Bed” to the Chores stage, as that classification is more appropriate. The move could also allow for greater efficiency, as I can prepare my clothes for the “Get Dressed” step while I am in the same room.
- Governance Models – A vulnerability assessment uncovers that the house is left briefly unattended during three separate steps. This requires the creation of a security protocol that the front door must be locked during those specific steps. There is also a need to create an additional two failsafe alarms to kickstart this process if the original alarm is not responded to properly.
This project was beneficial in that it allowed me to identify and address inefficiencies in my morning routine. The great thing about the principles discussed during this process are that they can just as easily be applied to drive greater efficiency in your software delivery life cycle. As you begin to visualize and analyze your software development process, you will then be equipped to make the data-driven decisions necessary to optimize it step-by-step, start-to-finish. This can lead to reduced waste, shorter development time, or perhaps time for an extra cup of coffee in the morning.
Please comment below if you have conducted a similar exercise for one of your own everyday value streams, or if you have any thoughts on how I can better optimize my morning routine.