Two Final Benefits
A Diagnostic for Functions As teams draw their current state value stream maps, they are likely to make a surprising discovery. Most problems identified along the value stream will trace directly to the performance of various functions — information technology, production control, logistics, product engineering, operations, purchasing. What’s more, weaknesses in functional performance discovered in the sample value stream will almost certainly be present in every other value stream the firms touch. In our experience, the functions want to support the value stream for each product. But they have a hard time seeing the connection between their activities and the needs of the product.
Thus an important benefit of the mapping process — in addition to a breakthrough in consciousness about the magnitude of waste and the enormous opportunities for improvement — can be to give much clearer guidance to each function about its role in supporting value streams. A real bonus can be achieved if the improved functional performance can then be applied to all value streams within the participating firms.
A Diagnostic for Relations Between Firms As teams start mapping, they are likely to make yet another discovery. Today we all use language stressing partnership and cooperation between firms sharing value streams. However, mapping teams in most cases will discover an enormous gap between these high-level principles of collaboration and the day-to-day reality down at the level of each value stream. If the value stream map shows widespread confusion and counter- productive actions between firms at the value stream level, it will be obvious that “partnership” at the top isn’t translating into competitiveness at the bottom.
Fortunately, value stream mapping provides a clear and consistent language for firms to start an intelligent conversation with each other about the root causes of their shared cost, quality, reliability, responsiveness, and communications problems. (Indeed, we believe a relentless, fine-grained focus on improving each value stream, rather than high-level agreement on principles, is what has given Toyota its edge in creating the world’s leanest supply base.) A real bonus can be achieved if the practical lessons of shared value stream management can then be applied by each firm to its relations with its other customers and suppliers.