Choosing a Leader and a Value Stream Team We hope that you are experienced with facility-level mapping as described in Learning to See and have appointed value stream managers for all of the value streams within your facilities. We are convinced that this is critical to gain the full benefit of mapping at the facility level. What’s more, the knowledge of facility-level value stream managers will be invaluable for quickly drawing accurate maps of the extended value stream.
However, by their nature, extended maps cross facilities and firms. Suppose managers are in place for the segments of the stream within each facility. Who has the responsibility for directly managing the total stream across firms, to connect the maps and lead the improvement process? The reality in most cases will be “no one”. So there is a need for a new type of manager who we will call the “Product Line Manager” (PLM).
The Product Line Manager This individual in the most downstream firm needs to be much more than a technician concerned with one facility. Indeed, for optimal results the Product Line Manager needs
to be a business manager. This means “business” in the sense of taking responsibility for making money and growing market share with the product family in question. And it means “manager” in the sense of looking concretely at the precise actions that need to be taken all along the value stream to remove waste and cost while improving quality and responsiveness.
The most successful firms we have encountered using these techniques have Product Line Managers who think about product marketing and engineering as well as production and purchasing. With all the elements of marketing, design, production, and supply chain under his or her oversight, this individual is in a unique position to judge the performance of the many functions touching the product. Indeed, as we will see in a moment, a continuing assessment of functional performance along with precise prescriptions for improvement is one of the most important benefits of product line management.
However, we do not usually recommend what is sometimes called a “product team structure in which all of the engineering, operations, purchasing, and marketing employees supporting the product are put on a dedicated team. Doing this causes a large amount of organizational disruption during the transition and this structure still does not address the behavior of upstream partner firms. What’s more, it is really not necessary in most cases if the PLM takes an energetic approach to the job. ”