Feb 4, 2011

Value Stream Mapping and a touch of reality

Rather recently I had a team from a customer create a VSM of their process. The usual steps: identify the different steps, or actions, of the process and their sequence; estimate the calendar task for each step; estimate the actual time it takes for each step to be executed; estimate the wait times between steps; identify and calculate loops in the process, if any; then calculate its efficiency by dividing the actual execution time by the total cycle time. I was shocked when they showed me their to be at close to 90%! I knew something wasn’t right, taking into account their own comments earlier during the training on the large number of projects they were running and the dependencies that sometimes taking up to months to resolve. I asked them to consider one typical project and recalculate.

It is very hard to imagine a highly productive team that is running close to 140 simultaneous projects with a staff of around 30 people, each project requires around ½ dozen staff members and takes between 4 to 5 weeks and up to 3 years to get done. 
Each post it is one project!

I explained to the team why although they are busy all the time their efficiency couldn’t be high. There was too much multitasking, frequent long waits, projects that were never finished because a dependency was never resolved, and projects that were either poorly finished or finished late because they had to improvise to pull it off when a dependency was not being satisfied by the corresponding stakeholder. With that in consideration the efficiency was 29.3% at best and most times under 20%. They agreed with this assessment and are now working towards implementing an actual Kanban system to help them control how much they are working on at a given time, improving communication, and figuring out effective ways of enforcing policies to reduce delays (hopefully eliminate them).

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