Friday, July 22, 2005

Value Stream Management, Introduction

This series of posts will propose a new concept of leanness from the one used currently in our system and outline a roadmap for getting there. This introduction will contrast the proposed definition to the one typically used and lay out the parts of the lean roadmap, which will make up the next five posts in this series.

The idea of leanness in a chronically underfunded system usually refers to underperformance. When we talk about how lean our agencies have become, we usually refer to things we feel we should be doing or be doing more of. My friends who run agencies might point out regulations they no longer comply with, a reduction in Quality Assurance activities, services that our clients need or want that they no longer offer, etc. The failure to perform key tasks is a predictable outcome of frozen rates and growing mandates, but it's better described with the word erosion than leanness.

I remember an old joke about the guy who lost 20 pounds of ugly fat when he was decapitated. That's a good metaphor for our concept of leanness. The usage in Lean Thinking refers to the elimination of waste. Waste can be found at three levels,
1. Activities and costs that do not actually generate value for our clients,
2. Activities and costs that could generate the same amount of value with less investment if done differently, and
3. Activities and costs for which there are substitutes that generate equal or greater value for clients with less investment.

I think most agencies serving California's people with developmental disabilities are about as eroded as they can be. I would argue that none, including the one I run, are as lean as they should be. Growing leaner is a process of increasingly and consistently directing dollars and energy into creating value for the people we serve.

So, the roadmap outlined by Womack and Jones follows the following process.

Part I: Specify Value, defining what needs are served;
Part II: Identify the Value Stream, recognize the contributors to the generation of the value specified;
Part III: Make the Value Stream flow, this step represents a radical reimagining of how work is best done with a focus on seeking and eliminating waste;
Part IV: Pull, which is a corporate analogy of person-centered support; and
Part V: Perfection, which institutionalizes a permanent and continuous process of improving steps I-IV.

So the next five posts in this planned nine-part series will look at each of the parts of Lean Thinking in the context of California's system of service and support for people with developmental disabilities.

Friday, July 15, 2005

New series of posts-Value Stream Management

Thanks to everyone who wished this site a happy birthday or blogiversary or whatever it was. The next series of posts, probably nine in all will discuss the benefits of Value Stream Management as a paradigm for reform of this system. The series will roughly follow James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones' book Lean Thinking.

There are a few reasons that Value Stream Management (VSM) is an attractive model. The first is that the concept of "Let the customer pull value" is essentially a business-world equivalent of person-centered thinking. The second is that the paradigm defines efficiency in a way that I find much more engaging than the normal way that we discuss the idea in this field. Those of you who have known me for awhile know how pessimistic I am that our system will ever be fully funded to operate under the current structure. The real hope for a better system falls to redesign and reimagination. A third reason is that VSM promotes honesty and transparency regarding the possibility of doing things better.

A Disclosure: I am currently working with partners to develop an instrument for applying the concepts of Value Stream Management to our system. While I certainly honor objectivity, I should admit that I both have already made up my mind as to VSM's value and hope to profit from its application.