Value Stream Mapping
in the R&D Space
I am no fan of tools because they can very easily begin to substitute for
good thinking. However, there are three tools I discuss in some depth, and
for very specic reasons:
A3 format
Critical Question Mapping
Value stream mapping (VSM)
e A3 format is important because it embodies the entire Lean (a.k.a.
scientic) thinking process, and its use promotes practice in, and the qual-
ity of, good thinking.
I promote CQM for two reasons: First, CQM removes people from their
current way of thinking and almost simultaneously enables them to see
and reframe their thinking. is has all kinds of positive eects, from
merely opening people’s orientation to establishing a structure to inten-
tionally and eectively design breakthrough products and ideas. In a nut-
shell, it is an invaluable tool for creating innovative platforms within your
research and development (R&D) teams. Second, CQM is an incredibly
valuable tool for managing knowledge growth. With a good CQM, a team
can actively and successfully manage a changing learning and timeline
landscape, bringing in projects on time despite dramatic changes in the
R&D environment. Researchers, seeing the required technical direction
so clearly in their minds, focus all of their creativity in alignment with
their peers. is decreases time spent on interesting but ultimately unused
148 • Creating a Lean R&D System
science, and it does so without appreciably narrowing the creative space so
highly valued by researchers.
VSM is the third of these important tools. Like A3 and CQM, VSM is
not a requirement for successfully becoming Lean, but as an implementa-
tion device, it is invaluable on many levels. First, it provides the design and
implementation team with unbiased understanding of the work they cur-
rently perform—a clear vision of their required performance that delivers
clarity for design. Second, it builds team unity and direction in a well-
structured environment. Finally, and most important in my view, it serves
as a platform to enable entire communities to experience and adopt Lean
simultaneously. is may not be its obvious, or even intended purpose,
but it is perhaps its most important one. People coming to Lean must leave
much of their earlier ways of thinking behind. ey must abandon their
old paradigms, and as omas Kuhn suggests in his wonderful history of
scientic revolutions,
people who abandon one paradigm must simulta-
neously substitute a new one.
I would argue that the Lean philosophy takes the position that all para-
digms are useful in limited context. Similarly, they are all incorrect when
more knowledge is gained or a broader/narrower scope is considered. is
is quite a dicult leap to make and sustain on your own when your whole
life—as well as that of everyone around you—has been focused on nding
and implementing the correct way to view things, do things, and think
about things. As I have found in my own life, and as several of our teams
have demonstrated, it is far easier to make that same leap with a group of
friends and teammates. People making the same leap talk about the leap
and its implications, challenge each other when their thoughts dri away,
and support each other in learning how to exist within this new thought
Support makes taking the leap much easier to do and to sustain.
e purpose of the VSM projects that we run at Pzer is to shi the tech-
nical, social, management, and learning performance of a given R&D com-
munity. Technical performance is simply the communitys performance
in terms of speed, quality, and integration of the work activities that the
omas Kuhn, e Structure of Scientic Revolutions, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1996).
One group insisted that we include all team members in our design workshop. is exceeded our
normal workshop size by almost a factor of two, but in my view, this proved to be better in the
end because all team members were included, engaged, and transforming their Lean thoughts

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