Management in VSM

The value of management being present for Value Stream Mapping is somewhere between low and negative.

I’m talking here about “as-is” mapping, not idealised “to-be”. We will look at that next.

The low positive value is they get to see how the work really happens. This has two benefits:

🌸They have their beliefs about how they think it happens corrected.

🌸They get to see how they are an impediment to flow.

But both these benefits can be obtained later by walking through the resulting map after it’s done.

The other small value is when management are the only ones who know how part of the process happens, which is a red flag right there but it might be the case. Usually staff know enough for VSM: we are only mapping black boxes, not a flowchart.

The negative value is some managers interfere with the mapping process.

🌸They challenge what is being said when it clashes with their false conception of the flow.

🌸They divert into discussion of how it is supposed to be.

🌸They reduce the psychological safety of the staff to speak up about what really happens.

OK what about mapping the “to-be” future state?

Management need to be there, if only because they are unlikely to accept a map that they weren’t involved in. But again the value is mixed:

The positive value is

🌸They buy in.

🌸They know about the constraints of policy, politics, and resources.

🌸They can agree to policy change on the spot, especially between two management fiefdoms.

The negative value is

🌸They may push for unworkable solutions

🌸Middle managers are inclined to focus more on risk and efficiency than value and innovation – it’s their job.

🌸That psychological safety thing again