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Tonianne DeMaria


The Lean Brain Series, Part 2: Visualization Begets Alignment

Promote constancy of purpose by making the current state explicit

Published: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 11:02

Lean says: Map the value stream. Your brain says: I’ve been doing this so long, it’s become second nature to me. The steps are right here—in my head.

What’s at play here:
• Illusion of transparency
• Curse of knowledge/information imbalance
• Status quo thinking
• Groupthink/false consensus effect
• Availability bias

It was day four of the value-stream mapping exercise, and tempers were beginning to fray. Despite having worked together for years, the members of this outwardly cohesive development team struggled to identify the basic activities needed to create value for their customer. While at 17 steps they agreed they were close to completing a first pass of their map, they couldn’t seem to reach consensus when it came to certain conditions and boundaries, and for some, even the target was nebulous.

If they couldn’t agree on how they currently operate—without that clear baseline—how could they improve their future state?

Oftentimes the curse of expertise is the assumption that other people’s interpretation of events matches our own. So long as the value stream is left implicit, the steps—the order, the hand-offs, the standards—are highly subjective. As a result, effort is duplicated. Unnecessary churn occurs. Bottlenecks and work starvation become business as usual.

And no one seems notice.

How to mitigate

Especially when it comes to nonroutine creative work, eliminate assumptions and normalize expectations by making the current state explicit. Visualizing steps essential to the process exposes mismatches, surfaces nonvalue-added steps (waste), and promotes constancy of purpose.

In part one of the Lean Brain series, we discussed five ways our brain can thwart lean and how to mitigate them when value is a conversation.

Next up, flow: You can’t step in the same river twice.

First published on the ModusCooperandi blog.


About The Author

Tonianne DeMaria’s picture

Tonianne DeMaria

Tonianne DeMaria is partner and principal consultant at Modus Cooperandi, and co-founder of Modus Institute and Kaizen Camp. She is co-author of the Shingo Research and Publication Award-winning book, Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life, and the upcoming Why Kanban Works and Kidzban. DeMaria is passionate about the roles collaboration, value-creation, and happiness play in “the future of work,” and appreciative of the ways in which lean thinking can facilitate these ends. She helps clients create cultures where effectiveness is valued over productivity; learning and continuous improvement is ongoing; innovation can take hold; and where healthier, fulfilling, and more integrated lives can result.