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An LEI New Year's Resolution: No Wallpaper!

Jim Womack
1/8/2002
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New Year's resolutions are a bit of a cliche so I've modified the tradition this year: I've made my resolution on your behalf! I've resolved that in 2002 no one in the lean community will turn their value stream maps into corporate wallpaper by failing to actually implement their Future States.

This resolve is not based on vague anxieties but on what I often see as I walk around the industrial world. I frequently find beautiful Current State maps on the wall next to equally beautiful Future State maps but ... no Future State in reality on the "gemba." (That's the Japanese word for the shop floor, whether the manufacturing floor or the engineering area or the order processing department -- any place that value streams should flow.) 

Sometimes the Future State is only wallpaper because of a lack of technical knowledge: the team meant to install a leveled pull system to connect all of the areas of continuous flow but just couldn't make it work. Or the continuous flow cell only flows continuously when the high-priced help come around to see it, because the individual process steps are not capable and the work elements have never been properly analyzed. 

But much more often the problem is simply that there is no effective management of each value stream. The maps were done by the process improvement group or the industrial engineers as a special project. But no one took responsibility as a day-to-day manager for actually implementing the Future State, stabilizing it, then treating it as the new Current State and calling for an even better Future State. 

When I say "manager" I don't mean another layer of supervision but instead an individual, probably with another functional task, who clearly takes responsibility for the health of a specific value stream and periodically reports on the trend of improvement to plant managers and product line managers. One of the key items to report is how good a job the different departments -- assembly, paint, stamping -- and the different functions -- operations, P C & L, manufacturing engineering, quality, and purchasing -- are doing in supporting the value stream and how their behavior should change. 

So ... please don't let me down on my new-fashioned New Year's resolution, and let us know at LEI how you are progressing. 

P.S. As an aid to turning your Future State maps into actual Future States, let me suggest the value stream video from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers we've just added to the bookstore on the LEI website. "Mapping Your value stream" explains the concept and application of value stream mapping from current state, to future state, to implementation. Then, the video takes you to the Donnelly Corporation plant in Grand Haven, Michigan, to see how value stream mapping actually improved a real company. For more information, click https://www.lean.org/Lean/Bookstore/ProductDetails.cfm?SelectedProductID=70.

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