It is time to start rethinking your value streams. 

Lance Knight, COO of ConnectALL, said the industry is making value stream management sound so much simpler than it really is, when in reality it requires teams to start thinking deeper and differently about how their work flows. 

The problem is that organizations are looking at it from a manufacturing or linear perspective, and not entirely from the software development perspective. In software development, value streams are organic, where in manufacturing it is all planned. 

In manufacturing, when a team is working on a physical good, there is a materials manager that manages the shop floor and all the things that flow through it. According to Knight, that manager makes sure the team has all the materials necessary to complete the job. In that space, there are two kinds of flows. One is the materials around the shop floor, and the other is the work item that goes along with the materials. 

In software development, the work effort or raw materials are things like source control, DevOps, testing, code in production, and monitoring. The other stuff is just endless work items, Knight explained. What organizations going down the value stream journey are missing is that each of those things has many different tasks associated with it, creating multiple delivery streams of work items coming together. For instance, if you need to fix a defect, you have to check the code out, go in and modify it, then check it back in and continue down the pipeline. Teams need to look at all these different things happening at the same time down their delivery stream and understanding the feedback loops. 

There are multiple flows. There is the flow of the raw materials, which is code, builds and all of that coming together then the flow of artifacts and work orders. In order to be successful, there has to be an understanding of how work flows and ability to manage the communication between those flows.

“Everyone says it took me five minutes to work on that task, but that is just five minutes on that task. That task was checking the code out, typing things in then it has to go through this other pipeline. I think we have to pay attention to this in order to really remove waste, automate and deliver hard value to customers,” said Knight. 

You need a value stream leader
All the work flows and value streams need to be tracked and mapped. Businesses have tried to throw tools at the problem, but it’s really a human effort, Knight explained. While it is not as easy as it seems, value stream management is not impossible. It just requires a human to go in, look at how work flows, bring it all together, and remove waste. 

As more and more organizations start to tackle their value streams, Knight sees the role of a value stream leader becoming more important than value stream manager. “Just like any other transformation, a leader or vice president says we are doing this and this is why. If you don’t have that then it is never really going to take hold in an organization,” he explained. “You need to really have a value stream leader, not a manager, who is consistently working with teams to lead their way.” 

Knight sees value stream leaders coming from the operation side of things. It has to be a person who is looking at how the software can be delivered quicker, making sure it has relevant value, and getting direction from senior leadership so that they align with the business’ objective and key results. 

“It is not that daunting, it just requires someone to want to look at, want to improve it, want to provide faster software delivery and then automate it,” said Knight.

“A human has to do all that, and then you have value stream management tools that let you take all you learned as a human, automate and connect the dots, and gather the metrics so humans can go look at where the bottlenecks are,” he said. “We are all kind of mixing that up and not looking at the true nature of value stream management, lean or six sigma and what they are there to do. Those are human things. They are not just tools.” 

Lance Knight will keynote at Virtual VSM DevCon, July 22.