Critical Question Mapping
Value stream mapping (VSM) has been invaluable in getting large research
and development (R&D) groups to see. It creates a common, visual representa-
tion of the work and the basic metrics around how, and how well, that work is
performed. But in running VSM workshops in R&D, three problems emerged.
e rst is that VSM activities do not represent elements of value within R&D.
e second is that, in R&D, we oen run into research problems for
which there is no precedent. We have no value stream to map, since the
value stream has never been designed or executed. is can occur in areas
like strategy development, the design and start-up of a new business, the
creation and execution of a new type or branch of science, or the develop-
ment of a new type of product. A recurring case in pharmaceutical R&D is
the development of dierent biological approaches to drug therapies, which
require vastly dierent development and testing approaches than other bio-
logics, let alone the small chemical molecules traditional to the pharmaceu-
tical industry.
e third, and most important, problem is not so much the VSM tools
inability to help people see, but rather its inability to help people reframe.
Our experience is that a value stream map that a team nds easy to develop
proves a very powerful mental frame that the team nds dicult to break
through. While the logjam is nearly always overcome, this inability to
reframe proves very frustrating for teams.
In the course of our early work, we came across value streams that had
poor precedent, but we always managed to map something akin to the
value stream that the team needed to (re)design. About two years in, we
came across a project with no precedent whatever in our company, and we
132 • Creating a Lean R&D System
had to try something new. Our design issues were that the team, who had
never worked together before, needed to do three main things. First, they
needed some way to see with a common viewpoint. Second, they needed
to be able to convert that common viewpoint into an actionable plan, if
not a future state. Finally, they needed to build the trust needed to oper-
ate collaboratively across a wide number of functional and organizational
boundaries. With this combination, they would be able to progress rapidly
against their goals. In other words, they needed the values of the VSM
workshop that provided structure to their problem and social context for
success, without having the benet of the structural alignment that a cur-
rent-state map would provide.
Some of our initial thoughts included group development of A3s and the
development of a dierent paradigm (a dierent sort of map) to power the
VSM workshop. We dismissed the A3 concept on three grounds: First, in
our prior work, we had attempted to develop A3s as a group activity. e
A3 builds we had done worked well with some teams and not so well with
others. When they did not go well, the team would grow frustrated and
lose the growing social connection of a VSM workshop.
Second, our experience showed that these eorts, successful or not, were
invariably clunky. I initially attributed this to our newness with using and
facilitating them, but later found that experienced, outside facilitators had
similar issues, and we wanted to support our team with something higher
than a 30 to 50 percent success rate. ird, while A3s are fabulous for
transmitting information on complex issues in short periods of time, they
are not as visual as a map. Somehow, in our culture, visual tools seem to
be a big positive for teams. We wanted the visual win.
Meanwhile, we came up against thorny scientic issues in other work-
shops that the scientists needed to work through. In breakout sessions
with these subgroups, we had them develop lists of scientic questions
that needed to be resolved. In contrast with our A3 work, these exercises
proved smooth and easy to execute. e subteams were always able to
describe and develop frameworks and plans for solving these problems
without much additional assistance. Importantly, these subteams oen
developed signicant technical innovations as unexpected outcomes of
these exercises. Why not, we reasoned, try to build a mapping exercise
around this concept?
e potential benets of such a mapping exercise were enormous. While
the accurate mapping of a sequence of activities required to accomplish a

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