Value Stream Mapping; Streamline Workload without Sacrificing Headcount or Quality

Looking to streamline the workload in your organization but having trouble deciding where to begin? Many organizations find the thought of reducing workload intimidating or down right scary as these changes could result in downsizing or quality problems. I couldn’t disagree more with this line of thinking. In fact, the moment an organization ties improvement initiatives to downsizing is the moment they lose credibility with their workforce or other stakeholders. Here is a starting point with a few questions to ask yourself and ideas to get your creative juices flowing about where to begin your improvement efforts…

  1. What are the bottlenecks or emergencies that are occurring in my operation?
  2. In the eyes of my “end customer”, how could I provide better service?
  3. How is my current situation preventing me from accomplishing critical objectives?

Begin with a Value Stream Map (VSM) of a workflow and drive kaizen to reduce overall lead time.

Measure results over time and make improvements that continuously shorten the time it takes to deliver outcomes to end customers. As an example in one organization I worked at the (P2P) Procure to Pay function was a lengthy process of 140 days to pay key suppliers. Contractually the manufacturer needed to pay key suppliers in 60 days. The VSM technique revealed various bottlenecks which spurred action to reduce lead time and eliminate 90% of “problem” invoice issues in just 30 days. The reduction in time to pay the supplier freed up constrained capital and resources across both manufacturer and supplier. Workers of both organizations expressed having more time to devote to new initatives, develop stronger supplier relationships while reducing “fire-fighting” activities.

Eliminate non-value added work (i.e. activity that generates a zero or negative return on the investment of resources and usually can be eliminated without impairing a process) The time it takes to deliver an outcome or a result raises the cost to deliver it. Better stated speeding the time to deliver your goods and services creates additional capacity to handle more volume. Think about IN-N-OUT Burger. Would you buy a hamburger at a fast food chain if it took an hour to get your order? Probably not, IN-N-OUT Burger is a good example of an organization trying to speed its customer delivery time. The wait at an IN-N-OUT drive-thru can be as long as 18 minutes. This popular Western U.S. fast food outlet is working to eliminate excessive wait time at the drive thru by extending their sales force to customer vehicles so orders are complete when drivers arrive at the window. Idling, while in a Fast-Food Drive-Thru burns about a half-mile worth of gas every minute, according to the California Energy Commission. The average time spent in a drive-thru is usually 7 minutes or more. Wait time reduction from 18 to 7 minutes represents 5.5 miles of gas savings per vehicle per visit; which is equivalent to 5.5 million miles of gas saved for every 1 million drive-thru visitors. Think about the parallels of the fast food service model and how you might begin to eliminate the unnecessary wait time (non-value add) activity throughout your organization to delight more and more customers.

Downsizing and quality problems occur in government agencies and businesses alike but even more so for those that fail to make improvements and adapt to rapid change. The point of increasing organizational efficiencies is to better serve end customers.

Cristina Mont-Kraus is President of DoConnect Systems and a management consultant working with organizations implementing complex Information Technology and Process Transformation efforts. Her passion is helping people break performance challenges through organizational change by applying Lean & Six Sigma strategies, tools and methodologies. She can be reached at

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