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.

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