April 23, 2023

VSM is about neither value nor management

Some folks are still spreading misinformation about value stream management. For example, in a recent webinar, the so-called authority made up a definition of value stream management. Their logic went thusly: "What is value stream management? Well, let's look at the definition of each word: value, stream, management." After giving a definition of each, stated "Therefore, value management must be about managing value."

To the contrary, it's about neither managing nor value.

For the authoritative definition, I look to the early book on Value Street Management by Tapping, Luyster, and Shuker circa 2002 titled "Value Stream Management: Eight Steps to Planning, Mapping, and Sustaining Lean Improvements."

The authors clearly defined value stream management as an eight-step process of lean improvement. 

It's not about management.

It's about lean improvement. This original book on VSM says nothing at all about "managing" the flow, such as expediting work, or tracking work -- stuff commonly thought of as 'managing'. It's more about leadership than management. It's not about working in the system. It's about working on the system. 

It's not about value.

This authoritative book on VSM says nothing at all about what is sent through the system. 

It says nothing at all about how to measure the value of what you put into it. 

It's not about evaluating the value of what is flowing. 

It isn't about measuring the value you get out of it. 

Although those are good things to attend to, that's product management and strategy, not value stream management. 

In VSM, value is not computed, ensured, or measured. Value is assumed.

VSM is about improving the flow of whatever through the stream. VSM is about improving the stream. In true VSM, the theme is about reducing waste and improving the flow of whatever it is deemed by management to flow. In lean, improvement of flow is the theme. It's not about determining what should flow through the stream at all.

Okay, so, sure, value stream management is poorly named. But I still prefer that those who choose to have a voice about it do their homework first. That way they can stay true to the original definition rather than make up their own out of ignorance.