Become a Member Member Login

Organizational Considerations in Value Stream Management

February 17, 2022

In our very first episode of The Flow Sessions, our flagship webinar series hosted by VSMC board advisor and value stream lead, Steve Pereira, we had a conversation with Value Stream Mapping legend, Karen Martin about value stream thinking. It was a very lively session, with many more questions than we were able to address in the session. In this post, I tackle the questions that relate to organizational design and challenges.


Chris: How do you break inertia as an organization? Does this culture need to evolve starting at the top, or can a grassroots effort be just as effective?

The current industrial revolution, the software or digital age, requires organizations to evolve to harness the progressive ways of working and associated technologies including in movements such as value stream management and DevOps. This means that hundreds, thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of humans in an organization have to unlearn previous practices and learn new ones. This takes time. It’s both a top-down and a bottom-up exercise. Most organizations are dominator hierarchies so as they learn to distribute authority and empower teams and individuals with autonomy, leaders need to make space available and budgets and decision making. Their role is to help teams self-discover improvements.


Bradley: Can you speak to how to align teams to value streams especially from a technology perspective?

A digital organization’s teams live by the mantra “We build it, we own it.” What is ‘it’? The product or service they deliver to customers. What’s a value stream? Anything that delivers a product or a service. Ipso facto, the team is a value stream. The problem is, most organizations are project-driven and have created silos to manage their technology teams as order-takers, not as strategic value deliverers. Value stream mapping opens eyes as to the limitations of this way of working and builds the foundation for organizing as value streams in order to manage them. Our State of VSM Report 2021 shows how these ways of working correlate with higher organizational performance.


Aaron : Have you ever started a value stream mapping session and then realized that actually the teams weren't setup correctly to support value stream thinking? Do you try to continue with the theory and the concept of value stream mapping or switch focus and work on team topologies?

Nearly every mapping activity I’ve ever undertaken started with a sinking feeling as I realized that the team was working to project-based, large batch ways of working. Then I realized that’s what we are there to fix and eventually I learned that feeling was coming, it made me smile, I settled because I knew I’d been there before and where we were about to go. Mapping is a collaborative, visualization tool that sets teams on a journey then measures their improvement as they progress. If one of the changes that will make flow faster and more friction-free is to adopt a different team topology then mapping will show why and the team can work out how.

Watch the Full Webinar Here

Helen Beal

Helen Beal

Helen is the CEO and chair of the Value Stream Management Consortium and co-chair of the OASIS Value Stream Management Interoperability Technical Committee. She is a DevOps and Ways of Working coach, chief ambassador at DevOps Institute, and ambassador for the Continuous Delivery Foundation. She also provides strategic advisory services to DevOps industry leaders. Helen hosts the Day-to-Day DevOps webinar series for BrightTalk, speaks regularly on DevOps and value stream-related topics, is a DevOps editor for InfoQ, and also writes for a number of other online platforms. She is a co-author of the book about DevOps and governance, Investments Unlimited, published by IT Revolution. She regularly appears in TechBeacon’s DevOps Top100 lists and was recognized as the Top DevOps Evangelist 2020 in the DevOps Dozen awards and was a finalist for Computing DevOps Excellence Awards’ DevOps Professional of the Year 2021. She serves on advisory and judging boards for many initiatives including Developer Week, DevOps World, JAX DevOps, and InterOp.

Comments 0

Value Stream Mapping Practices

The 3 Essential Elements for Value Stream Management Success

Value Stream Management and Other Ways of Working Frameworks