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Linking Value Stream Maps to the 7 Wastes

I am going to show you how to improve on the value stream mapping technique by combining it with the 7 wastes. Both of these are part of Lean thinking and this post assumes you have a basic knowledge of both. Here is a simple overview of them:

  • Value stream mapping is a visual way of showing your processes from start to finish. Draw boxes for activities and lines between them for the delays in between. You can then note down how long each activity and delay takes. This helps to highlight where delay is costing you a lot, rather than the usual assumption that you should simply improve process steps.
  • The 7 wastes come from Mary and Tom Poppendieck’s translation of lean manufacturing wastes to those relevant to software development (see their book Lean Software Development)

The 7 wastes are as follows:

1. Partially done work
2. Extra processes & re-learning are the same
3. Extra features
4. Motion
5. Waiting
6. Task switching
7. Defects

Now let’s get clever and link these together! Step one is to create the value stream map. Step two is to review it for waste. This is shown below with the value stream in white, delay times in yellow and the wastes in blue…


After creating the value stream map you can now identifying waste by asking these questions (as a starting point):

1. Partially done work
– Does the process sometime get partially done because you are impeded?
– Are you clear on what “done” is?
2. Extra processes
– Is the process necessary at all?
– Is you process passing information in the most optimal way?
3. Extra features
– Is the process producing anything that is unnecessary? e.g. a sign off doc
– Are you building features for the future rather than for now?
4. Motion
– Can you avoid a handoff of information?
– Can one or more processes be done by the same person or as a group?
– If you have to handoff information can you improve the way it is done?
5. Waiting
– Is someone waiting around for something to be done rather than chasing it down or helping?
– Can you improve your information notification system?
– Overall how long is it before the customer sees value?
6. Task switching
– Are people task switching because of a bottleneck, rather than solving the issue?
– Are people task switching because they’re working on too many things at once (WIP)?
7. Defects
– Is the root cause of the defect one of the factors above?
– Can processes be improved to proactively stop the defect?
– Is the defect caused or more likely to happen again because of a delay?

One comment on “Linking Value Stream Maps to the 7 Wastes

  1. Tim, your workshop on 7 wastes with various Scrum Masters was a great introduction on this subject.

    Every Agile team should take this up and one will be surprised by the findings and the improvements one could bring by this simple exercise.

    Great Blog!

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