[E25] The Concept of Value Stream Management

DevOps Basics

Jayne Groll, CEO of DevOps Institute, speaks with Steve Pereira, Founder of Visible Value Stream Consulting, about the need to understand, map, manage, and focus on value streams as part of the “new normal”.

The lightly edited transcript can be found below.

Intro:

You’re listening to The Humans of DevOps Podcast, a podcast focused on advancing the humans of DevOps through skills, knowledge, ideas, and learning, or the S-K-I-L framework. Here’s your host DevOps Institute CEO, Jayne Groll.

Jayne Groll:

Hi, everyone it’s Jayne Groll, CEO of the DevOps Institute, and I’m delighted to be here for another episode of The Humans of DevOps Podcast. I’m joined today by Steve Pereira, The Value Guy, and we’re going to have an interesting conversation about value stream management, particularly as we exit 2020 into whatever the next normal looks like. Hi, Steve, why don’t you introduce yourself to our audience?

Steve Pereira:

Hi Jayne. Thank you for having me. And it’s an absolute pleasure. I’m a big fan. And so a little bit about myself. I’ve been in IT for 20 years, all the way from tech support to CTO. And along the way, the thing that really made a difference for me and always made my job easier, always drove results was this concept of thinking of the value stream, thinking of the big picture. And that’s brought me to my current job running a consulting firm called Visible. And what we focus on is improving team and organizational performance as it pertains to delivering value.

Jayne Groll:

Now that’s interesting. I love the name Visible by the way, because one of the things we know about value stream management, value stream mapping is the opportunity to make work visible. You know, with all deference to Dominica DeGrandis.

Steve Pereira:

Yes.

Jayne Groll:

With the name of her book, right? But making work visible, but I think more than that, making value creation visible. Let’s start talking about that. Why is it important? Why is it important that we’re able to visualize the creation of value and maybe even socialize it so that it becomes a common understanding, a common goal of everyone in the IT organization?

Steve Pereira:

Yeah, I think that’s a fascinating subject and it’s a great question. We’re really kind of hitting this Renaissance in tech and IT, where we used to actually think of tech and IT totally differently than we do now, because it was seen as a way to keep the lights on or put out fires. There were these very low value reactionary attitudes towards that type of work and that contribution to an organization. And now in 2020, what we’re seeing is the ability for tech and IT to truly not only contribute value to organizations, but to revolutionize and re-imagine the concept of customer value and delivered value. And that’s what’s so exciting about this prospect of looking at things in terms of value streams. Because now instead of being a slice of the organization, that’s sort of isolated in the basement or off somewhere where people kind of send work to get done and then get some kind of result back.

Steve Pereira:

Now it’s woven into the very structure of every organization and the technical capabilities and the behaviors, the culture of innovation and delivering value. Your understanding of value as it pertains to your technical capabilities is the most critical factor of success for a modern enterprise, startup, team in any context. And so this idea of adding value and thinking about value continuously, not just when there’s a customer interaction, but from the very beginning of an idea to all the way through to delivery is where things are headed. And it’s a really exciting time to be a part of this kind of work.

Jayne Groll:

And it’s interesting because in some ways it’s the heart of the transformation, right? Everybody talks about digital transformation and optimizing the use of automation, which of course is really important. It’s looking at how everyone contributes value. You know, when I was an IT director, I used to get questions a lot, like well, how do I contribute to the bottom line? Says the developer or the infrastructure engineer, how do I contribute to the bottom line? And I think when we look at really sharing a common understanding of the stream of value and then how that stream is managed. There’s the extension to value stream management, how that stream is managed. At some point, it is the crossroads between people process and automation. What do you think?

Steve Pereira:

I absolutely agree with that. And I think that the value stream gives us this framework for really surfacing that to everyone in the organization, whether they are brand new to the team as an individual contributor and wondering how they fit in the big picture, or how everything actually works, to running the business and really needing to trust that people understand what truly matters to customers, what truly matters to the organization and how we all have to pull in the same direction, right? I mean, there’s so many opportunities for us to take a mission, or a vision, or a set of requirements and just head off in our own direction. And what the reality is, is that all of this contribution, all of these initiatives have to flow, right? Because we’re no longer doing one-off projects. We’re no longer attaching an end date to anything that we do.

Steve Pereira:

Everything has to be continuous. It has to be a stream. It has to flow and it all has to deliver value. There is always a customer, whether that’s internal or external, and the more we have these ways, like talking about value streams that, that can become part of the lexicon and part of the culture of an organization, the less likely we are to have people sort of pulling in different directions or implementing some tool that ultimately doesn’t affect the bottom line, right? That doesn’t add value from a business perspective, a customer perspective, or an employee perspective. We’re really just reaching this higher level of understanding. This more sort of nuanced or holistic understanding of what is an organization when you factor in technology, when you factor in innovation, and rapid delivery, and feedback, and all of these things that are so important. It’s now no longer one section of the company’s responsibility to deliver any of those things. It’s every single person, every team, every division.

Jayne Groll:

What’s interesting about that is as you know, and as everybody listening knows, this has been a very interesting year and I used the word interesting, partially sarcastically and partially symbolically. We were talking before we started recording that everybody’s using the word unprecedented. And while that’s an overused term, there is a truth in that.

Steve Pereira:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jayne Groll:

But I will tell you one thing that we’ve learned during the pandemic is that people, customers, whether they’re corporate customers or individual customers have told us what gives them value, right. They shown us the kind of services that in this situation at least, and maybe an extension into the future are considered value added services. Some of which were probably a little bit unexpected, but they also helped us understand which services were not necessarily considered value add from a technical perspective. I’ve said this a lot that while we’re very grateful to the first responders, the healthcare workers, the essential workers, it is the tech community that really had to rise to an unprecedented challenge in terms of pivoting. We’re heading into the end of 2020, and Lord knows, I really hope that as we go into 2021, this situation starts to improve, if not get resolved.

Jayne Groll:

Companies have now had to reimagine their definition of value creation and I think this is really illustrated that. What’s your prediction in terms of enterprises and individuals? Will there be more interest in starting to map their value streams? Is there going to be more interest in really looking at the customer experience and then of course, in terms of managing value, what do you think the lessons that enterprises have learned coming out of this, or at least stepping into the next new normal, whatever that is?

Steve Pereira:

Yeah, that’s really fascinating to think about. And it’s something that I think about quite often, I think there’s sort of two phases to this and dealing with the current state, I think a lot of enterprises and teams really struggled with figuring out what was happening so that they could adapt, right. I mean, it’s very difficult to do something different if you also have to worry about keeping the lights on and making sure that you understand what you have to work with, what you’re capable of delivering, or pivoting, or adapting to. And so I think a really strong understanding of value streams would have paid a major part in allowing those organizations to pivot and adapt with confidence. And they’re starting to realize that had this been a regular practice of looking at the value stream of thinking in terms of value delivery, there would have been a much easier time saying, okay, well we know what the process is now.

Steve Pereira:

We know what it needs to look like to adapt to the situation. Everybody let’s get together and design a future state value stream map that leverages what we have right now and reorganize this to eliminate things that are no longer relevant, and move us in the direction that we need to go. And I think that we’ve had these organizations pre-pandemic dealing with ever increasing levels of complexity, friction, and waste. That is not changing anytime soon in many cases it’s accelerating because we have a lot of legacy practices that are no longer as relevant or no longer as valuable as more adaptable or more let’s say, post pandemic workflows and value streams. I think that going forward, being able to visualize and address areas of complexity, friction, and waste will give these organizations not only the tools and the capabilities to adapt, but the confidence to make more qualified bets on future directions.

Steve Pereira:

With the understanding that if something unexpected arises, if we see more unprecedented, we’ll be able to move some pieces around on the board, and move in a new direction without throwing everything out the window and wondering what we can do to salvage the situation. I think it will hopefully become more of a natural behavior to re-examine value streams, to re-examine workflows and say, okay, what’s no longer true. That was true the last time we mapped this value stream? And what can we do to better adapt to the current situation and plan ahead for something that may arise that could threaten our existing practices and workflows?

Jayne Groll:

You know what’s interesting about that is that many may think that DevOps invented value stream mapping. When in fact it’s a lean practice, right?

Steve Pereira:

Right.

Jayne Groll:

Which I actually really liked that because it shows that we’re starting to align our internal practices that way. But when you think of kind of the by-product of this past year. We need to be lean, right? We need to be lean. I mean, there were economic ramifications, there were human ramifications, certainly digital transformation is no longer an option. And so I’m hoping that as enterprises around the world. It’s one thing about the pandemic, it wasn’t unique to a particular region, it was a global challenge that these enterprises around the world, when they have their epiphanies, whatever that epiphany may be, that they realize that in the first place, they should look at being lean, maybe out of a need necessity, right? Because they have less staff or they have less money, right? But let’s talk a little bit about lean.

Steve Pereira:

Yeah.

Jayne Groll:

Value stream mapping now kind of moving into value stream management from a tools and a process perspective is gaining a lot of traction. Do you think that it’s gaining traction because we’re looking at lean principles? Do you think it’s gaining more traction because we’re taking a step back and realizing that we can’t really kind of move into the future if we don’t know what we’re trying to deliver? What are your thoughts on that?

Steve Pereira:

I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. There’s certainly the necessity to lean up in cases where your optimistic projections or even your business as usual is no longer true. And you have to make do with less, and that kind of arises periodically for a number of reasons. I mean, there could be new entrance to a marketplace. There could be some technological shift that is threatening your core business or your product. You might be experimenting in new ways and you’ve got to go about that with a pilot approach, right? Starting small and starting lean. There’s many different cases where a lean approach is a very, very valuable way of approaching a challenge. And I think that the origins of this practice and the benefits are that if you’re ever trying to kind of move in a new direction, or try something new, or experiment. If you’re wrangling a hundred people, it’s a very different practice than a small team.

Steve Pereira:

And so having fewer moving pieces, fewer chefs in the kitchen for instance. You’re going to be able to move faster, you’re going to be able to pivot and head in a new direction a lot easier. But also I think waste is one of those things where a little bit is okay and it builds, and builds, and builds. It’s a lot like technical debt and the things that slow us down over time, you don’t notice until it’s too much, right? And you might not notice that you could be doing a lot more with a lot less. And it often has a lot of implications and effects that we don’t notice on a regular basis, and it can become sort of a death of a thousand cuts, right? Because this friction, and complexity, and waste really weighs on people in terms of cognitive load or the difference between how easy something should be, or how fast something should be in how fast it really is.

Steve Pereira:

It can really impact morale. It can impact velocity in so many different areas. The practice of being lean, not only from a waste perspective, but also from an experimentation perspective, the idea that we’re going to make small bets, we’re going to make small moves towards a larger goal. And we’re going to adjust along the way. That kind of culture of constant adaptation, but also a willingness to experiment and make decisions with data. That’s all becoming more and more appealing, right? Because not only is it easier with the availability of more data, and I think that’s a confluence of events and capabilities that’s really helping this, but you know the ability to just make data driven decisions instead of the loudest person in the room or the highest powered person in the room, it really makes for more inclusive, and dynamic, and kind of outcome driven work environments. And that is a step in the right direction. That’s a step towards getting more value out of everything that we’re doing.

Jayne Groll:

I wish we could talk about this for a long, long time, but we are going to run a little bit out of time, so let’s kind of wrap it up with a prediction. What do you think, what do you think next year? I mean, none of us have a crystal ball. We don’t know when we’re going to exit the constraints we have.

Steve Pereira:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jayne Groll:

We don’t know when the economy’s going to rebound, so I’m not looking for that. But in terms of now organizations that have calendar year budgets are looking at their budgets for next year and trying to figure out how they navigate through these uncharted waters. What do you think in terms of their focus on value? Are we going to see more interest in value stream management? Do we think that we’re going to see leaders that really come out in this space? What do you think?

Steve Pereira:

Yeah, well, I think that there is no question that there’s going to be a continuation and expansion of this growth in the direction of value stream mapping, management, thinking, visibility. All of that is only going to grow because this need for understanding all of the moving pieces that we’re now dealing with, this ever growing list of moving pieces, and systems, and complexity. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon and there’s a huge delta between the capabilities of tooling right now and the real demands of customers and teams, even in my own work, like if I’m trying to map a value stream, I used to be doing it in a room with people on a whiteboard and I would translate it to a digital map and that was okay. But scheduling that activity was really complicated because getting everybody in the same room at the same time used to be much harder, then now it is with remote work, right?

Steve Pereira:

And I think that the ability for us to bring everybody into a Zoom call and get them on an interactive whiteboard is… That’s just going to get a lot easier because it’s now so important and it will continue to be more important, right? We’re seeing organizations like Microsoft saying that nobody’s going to be back in the office in 2021, right. And the ability to work permanently remotely. And there’s quite a few really big players taking that stance. And I think it’s the right decision. This demand for kind of real time collaboration from remote participants is really going to explode. And I hope that the tooling and support that will enable that is also going to grow. And I think there’s no question that’s going to happen. For myself, I ported my entire practice to online collaboration tools and I’m using Mural on a regular basis and I’ve used Miro and a couple of other tools, but they’re not built for value stream mapping.

Steve Pereira:

They’re not built for value stream management. There’s a lot of opportunity to introduce solutions that are kind of tailored towards these very valuable exercises, because if you think of a retrospective, there’s more than a handful of tools now that you can use for conducting a retrospective. And it’s a much more simple and straightforward exercise than something like mapping a value stream. I think there’s a lot of opportunity for tools to support that practice as all of these teams and organizations are starting to adopt it. And I would love to see a lot of connection between the act of mapping and the practice of management, because I think once you map. It’s absolutely important that you map, but immediately after that point, you’re going to want to manage your state. You’re going to want to continuously monitor your performance because hopefully you’re making improvements.

Steve Pereira:

And if you’re not, you want to be aware of that. There’s a lot to do in terms of developing tools and capabilities. And then the other big piece is just adoption, right? I mean, there’s still relatively so few teams that are doing mapping and considering their value streams. We have a long way to go, but it’s very exciting to see the progress that we’re seeing so far. It’s a little ahead of my schedule. I was betting on this being a much longer play for myself and my business, but I think there’s so much that’s moving in this direction, and so much enthusiasm, and so much validation. I was just watching the DevOps Enterprise Summit all day. And I don’t think there was a single presentation that didn’t mention value streams and value stream mapping and management. There’s a lot going on here and it’s continuing to grow.

Jayne Groll:

That’s awesome. And I absolutely agree with you. I think that we’re going to see some really, really interesting investments if you want to call that in understanding socializing value from an IT perspective, but more importantly from a business perspective. We’ll have to stay tuned. Steve, thanks so much. I mean, at the beginning I didn’t get to thank you for also being a DevOps Institute ambassador. And I know you’ve been a tremendous contributor to the ambassador community, which are really our subject matter experts on a variety of topics. Thank you for that. Thank you for spending some time with me today. I’m really excited for our humans at DevOps to gain some insight from your knowledge and experience. And I hope that that continues as well for you and for our members, which I think is important. For everyone listening, this has been The Humans of DevOps Podcast.

Jayne Groll:

We’ve been talking about value stream management, value stream mapping in the new decade. Please if you’re listening to this, I have a plea for everybody. The 2021 Upskilling survey is still open and we need the humans of DevOps to just take about 20 minutes to give us your input to really an important project. We do it every year. We produce a very, very detailed report. But I think this year above all others, the difference between the data that was collected in 2019 and the data that is being collected in 2020 could not be more significant. If you’re listening to this, yes, we have some raffles. You can win a Nintendo Switch among some other things, but just do it because we need that data in order to be able to support DevOps institutes members and the human community of DevOps. With that again, Steve, thanks so much really I’ve so enjoyed our conversation today. For those of you listening, please stay well, stay healthy, stay connected, and then we’ll bring you another episode soon. Take care, everyone.

Steve Pereira:

Thank you, everybody.

Outro:

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