1st Edition

Untangling with Value Stream Mapping How to Use VSM to Address Behavioral and Cultural Patterns and Quantify Waste in Multifunctional and Nonrepetitive Work Environments

By Ovidiu Contras Copyright 2022
    222 Pages 88 Color Illustrations
    by Productivity Press

    222 Pages 88 Color Illustrations
    by Productivity Press

    222 Pages 88 Color Illustrations
    by Productivity Press

    The standard belief in books about Lean initiatives and value stream mapping (VSM) is that VSM works well on transactional processes (which are primarily linear processes where handoffs are well defined and the outcome is known) and it is useful for repetitive projects or products. This book counters these statements by clearly demonstrating how a VSM exercise can be successfully performed in complex, multifunctional environments involving nonrepetitive work, such as aircraft new product development, custom engineering, software development and project management.

    The methodology described in this book is the result of more than ten years of refinement and is based on practice while working with multidisciplinary teams and helping them achieve their goals. This is a novel approach to capturing the information flow in a VSM by recognizing it as the place where most of the issues are generated, especially for the previously mentioned environments and the fact that classical mapping methodologies (including classical VSM) do not capture it well.

    The VSM methodology that the author developed goes to the essence of a VSM (activities flow, information flow, timeline), uses conventional VSM icons and some custom information flow icons and helps the following:

    • Quantifying waste (VSM literature gap)
    • Making disconnects visible (VSM literature gap)
    • Making behavioral and cultural patterns visible (VSM literature gap)

    If the steps are followed thoroughly, then lead time reductions ranging from 60% to 88% are achieved, along with increased availability of resources, more output with the same resources, projects delivered on time and, most importantly, colleagues embracing the Lean mindset, which greatly contributes to maintaining the gains.

    Essentially, this book helps readers perform a VSM in environments where multiple stakeholders interact with each other to deliver a product or a service with unclear aspects, such as what the product/service is, how all involved can contribute to the product or service transformation and how the interactions between them occur.

    For example, the products/services targeted in this book include test results, analysis results, a custom design, a process, a methodology, an engineering change, integrated enterprise software and engineering drawings.

    Concurrently, this book helps readers map behavioral patterns, such as micromanagement, and company culture aspects, such as excessive governance and "decisions by committee."


    1.1 What’s a tangled environment?

    1.2 Why it’s hard to significantly improve work in a tangled environment?

    1.3 Can Value Stream Mapping help?


    2.1 Anyone caring?

    2.2 What’s the context?

    2.3 Trouble engaging people?

    2.4 What are we trying to fix?

    2.5 What’s the big picture?

    2.6 What is like, being the product?

    2.7 What’s the motivation?


    3.1 Everybody on the same page?

    3.2 Ready to record?

    3.2.1 The mapping pattern

    3.2.2 Timestamps and Lead time

    3.2.3 Cause & Adverse Effect, Rework

    3.3 What does it look like?

    3.3.1 Mapping conventions and icons

    3.3.2 How it all comes together ?

    3.4 Deep dive or fly high?

    3.5 Time to practice

    3.5.1 Macro level current state map

    3.5.2 High level current state map

    3.5.3 Detailed level current state map

    3.6 Generic considerations


    4.1 What is Waste and why care about it?

    4.2 What reveals Waste?

    4.2.1 VSM Icons reveal Waste

    4.2.2 Information flow patterns reveal Waste

    4.3 Need to dig deeper?

    4.4 Time to step back and conclude

    4.5 Time to practice


    5.1 Future state criteria

    5.1.1 Time to practice

    5.2 Technical backbone

    5.2.1 Time to practice

    5.3 The Waste machine

    5.3.1 The push system

    5.3.2 Lack of knowledge

    5.3.3 Lack of visibility and office politics

    5.4 How to deal with the Waste Machine?

    5.4.1 The flow system

    5.4.2 Visual management

    5.4.3 Knowledge management

    5.4.4 Product-centric, dedicated multifunction teams

    5.4.5 Dealing with behavioral and cultural aspects

    5.5 What’s the Future State strategy?

    5.6 Mapping the future state

    5.6.1 Time to practice

    5.6.2 High level future state map

    5.6.3 Detailed level future state map


    6.1 Simulating the future state

    6.2 The before and after

    6.3 Rating against the future state criteria

    6.4 The future state map bursts

    6.5 The future state implementation strategy

    6.5.1 Time to practice

    6.6 The value stream improvement action plan

    6.7 Sustaining the gains from the mapping exercise


    APPENDIX A Value stream mapping checklists

    APPENDIX B Value stream mapping icons

    APPENDIX C Detailed current state VSM for Ted's story

    APPENDIX D Conclusions current state VSM for Ted's story

    APPENDIX E Preparation future state VSM for Ted's story

    APPENDIX F Verification and implementation action plan future state VSM for Ted's story

    APPENDIX G Characters and stories



    Ovidiu Contras is a Lean Coach and author of “Navigating the Lean Transformation," book covering some of his personal experiences in Lean transformation efforts, not as a consultant, but as a continuous improvement employee.

     His career started as a design engineer for high temperatures industrial equipment. Since 2000 he is actively involved in Lean Transformation efforts as Lean Black Belt, Continuous Improvement Manager, Kaizen Promotion Officer or Lean Coach in different environments: Manufacturing, Engineering, Operations, working for companies in Aerospace, Consumer Goods and Research & Development.

    Ovi is specialized in the application of Lean principles in New Product Development with complex, multifunctional environments where the product is hard to see and the work is non-repetitive.

    Ovidiu Contras makes a valuable new contribution to the realm of process improvement. He uses his experience and creativity to open our eyes to the messiness of how people work together and make decisions in nearly all organizations. But more than that, Ovidiu guides readers to untangling the mess of everyday workplace interactions so that better progress can be made sooner and result in a more satisfying work experience.

    Bob Emiliani, Award-winning author of Better Thinking, Better Results


    This is a wonderful book that in a simple manner allows All areas of a business to appreciate what Lean can do for them. This is powerful because it breaks the mindset that Lean is only good for production, showing it can be used from customer first contact, development, sales, all the way through to services.

    Ralph Acs, President, Volvo Group Canada


    Over the course of my new product development career I realized that the technical part of the job was actually quite straightforward, with standard activities well defined and performed by well-intentioned and competent people. And yet we often had trouble to meet schedule and cost targets or to satisfy our customer’ expectations. Why was that? Ovi’s insight in his book is that the problems, issues and complexity are often associated with all the other things going on to support the activity flow, what he refers to as the information flow. It is this insight and his development of a methodology to apply VSM to recognize and reduce waste in the information flow that makes this book a must for those wishing to improve their business processes. The book is engaging and is full of real examples and practical tools to enable the reader.

    Nick Perkins, Senior Director, Advanced Product Development (Retired)


    Based on real-life examples, this book takes VSM outside of the beaten tracks to reveal immaterial flow and make behaviors, organizational patterns and politics also visible. Ovi provides here a great cookbook on how to bring clarity, alignment and transformational results in complex environments dealing with intangible flows.

    Matthieu Duhaime, President & COO, Avianor inc.


    For many, VSM is a tool for improvement facilitators, maybe managers. In reality, VSM is a powerful Leadership tool, exposing barriers, whether in process, transactions, office politics, etc. And this is precisely where Ovi's book delivers: it is simply full of examples and insights in almost every page, expertly blending theory with experience, in a context of high complexity. It is a work that for me, opens the eyes into how VSM can probe into so many aspects of an organization and provide solutions, hence its considerable value in the body of VSM work today!

    Patrick Ross, Former Executive Bosch Australia


    My first exposure to Lean was in 2006 when Ovi facilitated my first kaizen, and from that day on I was hooked. The way of looking into flow and waste to generate value is something that literally can change the game in a very significant way, especially in complicated environments. This book is a valuable guide for this matter. Ovi has been my sensei for all these years and I highly recommend his work.

    André Desroches, Vice-president Operations, Pelican International


    The world is complex, and growing more complex every today. Ovi has a unique ability to break down our ‘tangled’ world, and organize it in ways that uncover waste and help establish a clear path of removing it. From my new product development experience, I relate very well to the case studies presented in this book. They are far from being theoretical, they are illustrating what’s really happening in the real world, and that’s an extra benefit. I highly recommend Ovi’s book to both professionals and leadership.

    Pierre Harter, Director Research and Development, National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) at Wichita State University


    In his book, Ovidiu has provided real life examples of actions to avoid and identified opportunities for enterprises to make the most of their transition to lean. He highlights common traps companies tend to make while transitioning to a new work model and explains how to make transformational changes to the organization that will last. Bringing humor and insightful comments, the book is simply a joy to read!

    Steve Tessier, Director Shared Platform & Development Services (SPDS)