Continuous Improvement - Agile Value Stream Mapping - PMI ACP

This is the ‘Continuous Improvement - Agile Value Stream Mapping’ tutorial of the PMI-ACP Certification course offered by Simplilearn. In this tutorial, we will have an in-depth knowledge of Value Stream Mapping, Agile Spaghetti Diagram and other Frameworks.


After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Explain Agile Value Stream Mapping
  • Describe the steps in the process of Value Stream Mapping
  • Describe the various Agile flowchart symbols
  • Discuss the steps to create Agile Spaghetti Diagrams
  • Identify the framework to conduct self-assessment
  • Describe knowledge sharing and facilitated workshops
  • Explain the concept of System Thinking

What is Value Stream Mapping?

Value stream mapping is a technique used to analyze the flow of information, people, and materials required to bring a product or service to a consumer. Value stream mapping is a concept that originated in Lean manufacturing methodologies. A typical process will consist of a series of steps and activities.

These are classified as “value-adding,” that is, factors that add value to the customer and “non-value adding”, that is, factors that do not add value to the customer. Value stream mapping is a key tool to identify and eliminate process waste to increase efficiency, throughput, and effectiveness.

Note that just being classified as “waste” does not mean the step or process is unnecessary. It is important to understand that ‘waste’ is not adding value to the customer and hence should be minimized or avoided.

Value Stream Mapping - Stages

Value stream mapping involves creating visual maps of the process, called Value Stream Maps. Value Stream Mapping progresses in the following stages:

Step 1:  Start by identifying the product or service to be analyzed and the value being created by this process.

Step 2: Create a value stream map of the current process by identifying the steps, queues, delays, and information flows.

Step 3: Review the map to find delays, waste, and constraints. This can be done by reviewing the process and identifying activities that can be classified as waste. Also, identify the constraints if any.

Step 4: Create a new value stream map of the optimized state to be achieved in the future, by removing delays, waste, and constraints.

Step 5: Develop a roadmap to achieve the future state.

Step 6: Plan to revisit the process in the future to continually calibrate and optimize.

Value Stream Mapping-Steps

The steps involved in the value stream mapping process are as follows:

  • Identify the start and end point of the process
  • Identify high-level steps, inventories, and queues
  • Identify support groups and alternative flows
  • Classify activities as value adding and non-value adding
  • Eliminate or minimize the non-value adding steps and optimize the process

Step 1: Identify the starting point of the process, that is, who initiates it and the endpoint that is, who gets the result of the process. For example, the objective is to get an approval of a story from the customer. The value stream mapping begins when you initiate the process of getting approval and ends when you and the customer agree on the story.

Step 2: Identify the high-level steps, inventories, and queues through the process. When these elements are arranged in a sequence and showcased using a flowchart, they depict the primary flow. In this example, the second step comprises the following activities:

  • Select the story from backlog
  • Meet the customer
  • Determine Acceptance Tests

Step 3: Identify any supporting groups. These are added to the value stream flowchart, in turn, they become the alternative flows. In this case, on selecting the story from the product backlog, you get the story cards, which need to be considered for development in the iteration. If the customer is unavailable, the alternative flow would be to meet the customer representatives, who would act as a proxy customer.

Step 4: Classify each of the steps in the value stream as either a value adding or non-value adding activity. Please take some time to look at the illustration of this process given below. In this case, there are delays in between the workflow that is non-value adding activities. With these details, you can create the value stream of the system wherein the value adding activities span for 140 minutes and non-value adding activities span for 90 minutes.

Once this demarcation is completed, you can compute the efficiency of the process cycle using the formula, total value-add time divided by total cycle time. The total value-add time is 140 minutes and the total cycle time which is the sum of value adding time and non-value adding time is 230 minutes prior to optimization. Hence, the process efficiency is 61%.

Step 5: Either eliminate or minimize the non-value adding activities thereby optimizing the process. After optimizing, compute the efficiency of the process cycle using the formula, Total value-add time divided by Total cycle time. Post the optimization, the total of non-value add time is reduced by 55 minutes, thereby the total cycle time is reduced to 195 minutes. Hence, the process efficiency has improved to 72%.

Value Stream Mapping - Example

A subsidiary group of a publicly traded company produces a variety of products used in the metal brazing, cutting, and welding industries, and an array of gas-control equipment used in industrial, medical, and laboratory applications.

As part of its continuous improvement drive, the group wanted to improve the preparation of chrome-plated components to assemble in its gas-pressure regulators. To achieve this goal, they decided to use the technique of value stream mapping.

Value Stream Mapping Example - Solution

The group performed a Value Stream Mapping analysis. The given image depicts the analysis and implementation processes. The Value Stream Mapping tool provides detailed information on the flow of materials through a production process. It helped identify areas for improvement. The analysis revealed that to ensure a steady flow of these components through the production process, “supermarkets” have to be placed at various points along the production chain. Supermarkets are locations in which a standard amount of inventory is stored. When employees notice that the supermarkets are running low on materials, they restock them.

Value Stream Mapping Example - Outcome

After reorganizing the production process, the group witnessed various improvements. For the last 18 months, there has been no shortage of components for assembly into regulators. There was a 75% reduction in WIP related to the components. This helped to minimize inventory costs leading to significant savings.

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Seven Forms of Waste

The Lean methodologies provide guidance on identifying waste in the manufacturing industry. Mary Poppendieck identified seven forms of waste for the software development activities.

  • Partially done work: Work started, but not completed. For example, code completed but not tested by the QAs or specifications waiting for development.
  • Extra processes: The processes or extra work that does not add value to the customer. For example, documentation that is never referred to or unnecessary process approvals.
  • Extra features: Some software includes features that the customer does not really need, or are thought of as ‘nice-to-have’ features. For example, “gold plating” or including features only for technical “coolness”.
  • Task switching: This refers to multitasking between multiple projects that have context switching penalties.
  • Waiting: There could be the delays due to waiting for reviews and approvals. For example, waiting for prototype reviews and waiting for document approvals.
  • Motion: The effort required to communicate information or move deliverables from one group to another result in waste. If teams are not co-located, this can be higher. This happens more in distributed teams where a lot of ‘handoffs’ are required.
  • Defects: These are defective documents or software that need correction. For example, defects in the requirements or software bugs.

Agile Flowcharts

The Agile flowchart is a useful tool to illustrate the process flow. A process is a set of activities with a defined ‘trigger’ or starting event that produces a specific output of value to a customer. The flow chart for a process must capture each activity between the start and finish to be able to visualize it better.

Flowcharts are a form of modeling technique, which helps gather feedback from the stakeholders on the workflows. Flowcharts are used to analyze, design, document, or manage a process or program in various fields. They help uncover process gaps that contribute to waste, delays, and bottlenecks. It helps uncover the loopholes in a process like a missing path or to identify steps that may be unnecessary.

By visualizing the flow, flowcharts are considered an effective problem detection and problem-solving tools. Further, the Agile flowchart is also known as

  • Process Flow Chart
  • Functional Flow Chart
  • Process Map
  • Process Chart
  • Functional Process Chart
  • Business Process Model
  • Process Model
  • Process Flow Diagram
  • Workflow Diagram
  • Business Flow Diagram

Flowchart Symbols

Flowcharts help to illustrate and understand a process from start to finish. It includes all intermediate and decision-making steps. Various flowchart symbols and their uses are listed on the table. It is recommended to go through the contents of this table to understand the symbols used in flowcharts.

Flowchart Sample

The given image showcases a sample flowchart created to depict the process flow for an e-commerce site. Please take some time to view the image to understand the concept.

Agile Spaghetti Diagrams

Let us understand in detail about Spaghetti Diagram.

A Spaghetti diagram is a graphical tool that uses a continuous flow line, tracing the path of an item or an activity through a process. It is used to visualize the physical movement of items on the work floor as the team completes the process.

The continuous flow line enables process teams to identify redundancies in the workflow and presents opportunities to expedite the process flow, thereby making the entire system work more efficiently and also eliminate waste. Spaghetti diagram is also known as the Physical Process Flow and Point-To-Point Flowchart. A sample spaghetti diagram is illustrated below.

Spaghetti Diagrams - Steps

The steps involved in creating a Spaghetti Diagram are as follows:

  1. Sketch the current work area arrangement in detail and mark the location of various important points on the floor.
  2. Draw a line to mark every trip, each person, or unit that travels from one point to another.
  3. Add more lines as more trips are made.
  4. As the number of trips increases, the diagram gets thicker and cluttered.
  5. Identify any wasteful and redundant trips and trigger a better layout for the work floor and better definition of the process itself.

Note: As more wasteful or redundant trips are made, the chart gets thicker with more lines.

Benefits of Spaghetti Diagram

The benefits of using spaghetti diagram are as follows:

  • It identifies inefficiencies in the area or plant layout
  • It identifies opportunities to reduce handling
  • It identifies opportunities for better workforce communication
  • It identifies resource allocation opportunities
  • It identifies opportunities for improvement of workplace safety.

Self - Assessment

Self-assessment is the process where an individual, an organization, or a team conducts a comprehensive review of themselves to understand the strengths and weaknesses, and opportunities to improve. Some points to remember while conducting self-assessments are as follows:

  • The main purpose of self-assessment is to stimulate learning and change as well as enthusiasm for the application of Agile techniques.
  • Self-assessment should highlight learning areas for improving Agile techniques. The aim is to commit the organization’s key people to identify and inspire positive change.
  • The goal of self-assessment is to identify development needs.
  • Various prevailing ideas and opinions are identified and also the people’s commitment to specific tasks are captured.
  • Further, self-assessment is used to create a development plan. There is a need to identify opportunities for improvement. This generates the requirements for improvement or development of the project.

Organizational Self - Assessment

Organizations perform self-assessments with the purpose of triggering change. Peter Drucker identified the following five questions as a framework for conducting self-assessment. The organizational self-assessment helps in the success of Agile projects. The questions are:

  • What is our Mission?
  • What are our Results?
  • Who is our Customer?
  • What is our Plan?
  • What does the customer value?

Written Communication in Agile

Agile Manifesto of “Working Software over Comprehensive Documentation” conveys that documentation in Agile projects should be kept lean or Just Barely Good Enough (JBGE). Some of the key reasons why written communication is needed in Agile projects are as follows:

  • Although face-to-face communication is preferred in Agile projects, details pertaining to Project Vision, Mission, Roadmaps, Escalation Matrix, Process changes, and Key Milestones need to be documented and maintained in a written form. The team can refer to such information as and when needed without the need to memorize information.
  • Written communications ensure any team member joining the team gets an overview of the project. This could take the form of documents, e-learning content, or videos.
  • Critical information needs to be communicated through written means, to ensure compliance with regulatory laws.
  • Written communication with encrypted contents is the most preferred means to ensure confidentiality and can be used as a means to store sensitive information.

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Facilitated Workshops

Many organizations are achieving success by fostering interactions between the teams, with the help of facilitated workshops. These workshops are special meetings with clear objectives, empowered participants, and a facilitator. The key stakeholders of such workshops are:

Workshop Owner: Is responsible for setting clear objectives for the workshop, provides the necessary budget, and is interested in the outcome of the session.

Facilitator: Ensures the meeting is conducted in a fair and focused manner. However, he or she does not have any stake in the outcome of the workshop. Facilitator ensures the participants work with synergy and achieve the objective of the workshop.

Participants: Based on the topic to be discussed, participants are identified and empowered so they provide their view. Participants are people with sufficient knowledge, skills, and experience needed to achieve the set objective. They are expected to add value to the workshop.

The facilitated workshop is the most efficient and effective way of enabling communication and collaboration between the participants. It can be used for many purposes, such as Architecture envisioning, developing a project delivery strategy, fostering innovative ideas, strategic decision making, developing models or prototypes, problem-solving, and requirements gathering.

Workshop Facilitator

Workshop facilitator plays a key role in the facilitated workshop. The primary focus in on process not on the product, hence the facilitator is a neutral person, focused on running the workshop in an unbiased manner.

Some of the key roles of a workshop facilitator include:

  • Planning the time and location where the session is to be conducted
  • Ensuring the workshop objectives are clearly communicated to the participants
  • Conducting the workshop
  • Documenting the Minutes of Meeting (MoM) and circulating it to the participants within 48 hours
  • Following up on the action points A review session, conducted at the end of the session, helps understand if any aspect of the facilitated workshop needs to be improved.
  • Workshop facilitator creates an environment where participants convey their messages without hesitation. Normally, the facilitator does not have control over the outcome of the session.

Principles of System Thinking

Principles of system thinking are required to understand the project complexity and also determine if Agile is the right choice for the project under consideration. Projects undertaken to meet customer requirements can have a range of complexity, such as Simple or Low Complexity, Anarchy or Chaos, and Complex.

  • Simple or Low complexity project: These are projects undertaken to meet the needs of the internal stakeholders and are of low complexity. Agile methodology can be used for such projects; however, the kind of artifacts, ceremonies, and customer involvement could be cumbersome.
  • Anarchy or Chaos: These are the projects with no structure and are too fragile in terms of process. Agile does not fit into such projects, given the guidelines laid out by Agile methodology, ‘failure to adhere to the Agile best practices would lead to failure.’
  • Complex Project: These are the projects with uncertainties and the solution would only evolve over time, from both requirements and technological front. Agile methodology fits perfectly in such projects.

Principles of System Thinking (Contd.)

An illustration of the Principles of System Thinking is shown below. The given image shows how projects are labeled as Simple, Low Complexity, Complex, and Chaos. Projects, where the technology and requirements are close to certainty and agreement, fall under the Simple category. On the contrary, projects where technology and requirements are far from agreement and certainty fall under the Anarchy or Chaos category. Note that the Agile methodology works well for projects falling into the complex category.


Let us summarize the topics covered in this lesson:

  • Value Stream Mapping is a technique used to analyze the flow of information, people, and materials required to bring a product or service to a consumer.
  • An Agile flowchart is a useful tool to illustrate the process flow.
  • Spaghetti Diagram is a graphical tool that uses a continuous flow line, tracing the path of an item, or activity through a process.
  • Self-assessment is a process where an individual, an organization, or a team conducts a comprehensive review of themselves to understand the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities to improve.
  • Organizations are achieving success by fostering interactions between the teams, with the help of Facilitated Workshops, which includes a Workshop Owner, Facilitator, and Participants.
  • Principles of System Thinking are required to understand the project complexity and also determine if Agile is the right choice for the project under consideration.


This concludes ‘Continuous Improvement - Agile Value Stream Mapping’ tutorial and with this, we have come to the end of this course.

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