How IT Can Get Its Dream Makeover with Value Stream Management
Here at Tasktop, we’ve had plenty of interesting conversations with enterprises about whether they should delay adoption of a value stream management (VSM) platform until they’ve had a chance to “clean up their mess”.
Beneath the question lies a fear — always legitimate, but especially so in a year of economic distress and highly constrained budgets — that a VSM tool will simply expose what is already known: “Our processes, workflows and tools are a mess. We don’t need to pay money for a conclusion we’ve already reached, nor pile on layers of visibility and automation to something that doesn’t work. After we’ve cleaned up our act and matured our processes, we’ll finally be ready for a VSM tool.”
We empathize with the folks who express these thoughts. Who hasn’t felt this way?! That the only way to get your dream house is to completely demolish and rebuild your current home?
This is where home makeover TV shows have done us all a huge disservice. There, while the family is whisked away to a Disney vacation, cramped and messy homes are miraculously remodeled within a week. The family returns to a completely transformed dream house, sparkling with new appliances, luxurious new furniture and plenty of functional storage.
But, I guarantee you that if you were to pay a surprise visit to one of these homes three months later, you would witness the rapid resumption of the family mess within the newly painted walls. After all, the family has years of entrenched habits and dysfunction that haven’t been addressed in the slightest.
The Value Stream Management Ethos
A commitment to value stream management is not about the purchase of a tool. It’s about your commitment to the VSM ethos. VSM is a commitment to continuously measuring the time elapsed from customer request to customer delivery, and a commitment to optimizing every step of your process that can lead to shorter time-to-market while maintaining quality and happiness.
The tool? The tool is there to help you practice VSM, daily. It’s the gym membership that forces you to exercise. It’s the health, diet and fitness regime you follow to continuously shed pounds, starting week one. It’s the Fitbit you wear to keep you on track.
The tool’s greatest advantage is that it embeds all the know-how, so you can begin practicing VSM now, today, just the way you are. You can begin accelerating the rate of value delivery without first spending years restructuring, retooling, reskilling, and rearchitecting your value streams.
And doing so is vital for survival. According to the Dell Digital Transformation Index 2020, almost 1 in 3 companies are worried their organization may not survive the next couple of years. There is truly no time to waste.
A VSM Tool to Guide the Way
Now, if your house is a mess, a complex web of dependencies; hundreds or thousands of applications, services and platforms; a collaboration network that spans dozens of suppliers; knowledge work that traverses tens of tools… Well, first, welcome to the Global 5000. Second, there is no way to clean that mess up without a VSM tool guiding the way.
Because if it were that simple, wouldn’t you have done it already?
The fact is that this is not a dream house makeover. You need to renovate the house while you’re living in it. Incrementally.
There are so many reasons why product development is slower than you want it to be:
- Immaturity in the application of lean-agile practices
- Remnants of project-oriented behaviors
- Patchy and uneven DevOps pipelines
- Rudimentary product management competencies
- Imperfect tool implementations
- Lack of automation
- Ingrained culture and habits
- Misalignment between management and teams
- Stalled integrations of mergers and acquisitions
- The accumulation of technical debt
- And much more…
How can you, talented leader as you may be, hold all these truths in your mind and come up with the perfect fix, execute it in the perfect order, and be completely rejuvenated within six months? It is truly impossible.
For real people like you and me, there is no magic TV production team doing all the planning, coordination, booking, hiring, firing, sourcing, ordering, storing, and payroll to make your dream come true.
There is just the hard transformation work that needs to be delegated to the product value streams themselves:
- Start by baselining: VSM tools measure the value streams’ current performance in terms of time-to-market, velocity and efficiency.
- Next, examine your bottlenecks. VSM tools will surface where work is slowing down in the end-to-end flow, where flawed lean-agile and product management practices are undermining your business results.
- Systematically remove the bottlenecks, starting with the most impactful one. Correct behaviors and root out bad habits diagnosed by the tool. Experiment, make changes and observe the impact on your speed and velocity.
True, there will be commonalities. You will find problems that repeat themselves across at least 50% of your portfolio. Your product leaders will raise those to you, and you will need to address them. Thanks to your VSM tool, you will finally have the data to create the business case for that investment and the confidence to know that transformation investment will bear fruit.
But you will also be empowering your product leaders to solve the idiosyncratic issues plaguing them on their own. Some problems are unique to a value stream and can be solved by them directly, perhaps with a little help from other platform teams.
Many will discover they can slash their time-to-market by 75% by forgoing the demolition crew in favor of a Roomba ($700), 300 hangars ($100), an IKEA storage unit ($500) and a cleaning service that comes twice a month ($280).
That’s the beauty of a VSM tool. It provides both the flashlight to illuminate the entire end-to-end product development lifecycle, and the diagnostics to help you prioritize, relieve and resolve the areas impeding speed and quality. And that’s what makes it a necessity for any successful and sustainable digital transformation.