What Marie Kondo and Value Stream Mapping Have in Common

Written by: Kiley Nichols

Steve Pereira is on a mission to help improve the flow of value through your organization. “That’s what I’m fascinated about,” Steve says. “How do you improve the process of creating and delivering value to customers? What are the ideas that really help give us a boost and get us to higher levels of performance?”

Steve is the founder of Visible, a consulting firm focused on value stream management, a lean business practice that helps organizations define and optimize the value of their software development and delivery activities. Through workshops, coaching and advisory services, he’s helping software and other organizations make the most out of the teams that are driving value for their organization – and delivering better business outcomes in the process.

I was delighted to have the chance to chat with Steve and explore his vision in a recent episode of DevOps Radio. Among other things, we discussed the role of value stream management in DevOps. “I want to transition folks from talking about DevOps in every possible scenario to talking about value streams more often, to talking about value and flow. It is end to end.”

There is a lot of misunderstanding about value stream management and mapping, Steve says, partly because people don’t understand its history. “A lot of people think about value streams and say, ‘Oh, you’re just going to make software delivery like manufacturing, and then everyone is going to be working in a factory and hate their job,’” he says. 

The truth is quite the opposite, Steve says. In fact, if you look at the origin of value stream mapping – as an industrial automation process pioneered by Toyota – the goal was never to create a dreary, mechanistic workplace. Rather it was about removing the manual tasks that no one wanted to do, so workers could be more creative and enjoy their job as much as possible. “The value stream perspective gives them that,” he says, empowering developers to have more “autonomy, controllery and purpose to their job.”

Freeing Up Room in Your DevOps Processes

Properly applied, value stream mapping can unleash creativity and value, Steve says. “I’ve got a few maps that I’ve created that I build out with teams,” he says. “It really allows them to visualize and measure how they’re doing things, and then reimagine how they get to that higher level of performance.” 

A valuable side effect of value stream mapping is that organizations can eliminate waste that they can then put towards innovation and investment. “That frees up room,” Steve says. “That means you don’t have to do more to do more. All of a sudden, you’re doing less but you’re getting more.”

In his quest for simplifying and clarifying DevOps processes, Steve has found unlikely inspiration in the work of Marie Kondo, the popular Japanese expert in the art of decluttering people’s lives. “She wants you to get rid of junk and focus on what is really bringing joy to your lives,” Steve says. “You’ve got to really be intentional.” 

Steve’s relentless focus on value has made him somewhat of a skeptic when it comes to automation. “People in DevOps and technology are constantly parroting this idea of automating everything,” Steve says. “But I see that as just accumulating stuff that we don’t need. It’s not tied to value. It’s not tied to what actually delivers the highest return.” Instead of automating everything, Steve says organizations should concentrate on automating things that drive the most value. 

The best place to start a value-mapping exercise is with the desired outcomes you’re striving for – the target. Value stream mapping illuminates the “landscape” that organizations need to navigate on their way to that destination and uncover changes to existing processes that should be improved. 

These processes can encompass the whole enterprise, Steve says. The reality is that everybody is part of the value delivery process. “Whether you’re in sales or marketing, or in customer success or in software development, you’re all on the same team,” he says. “Your organization is really just a collection of value streams. Some of them are more customer-focused than others, but they all contribute.”

According to Steve, the more that people are able to see and understand this bigger picture, the more empowering and driven their organization becomes. “It’s very encouraging to me,” Steve says. “I find it energizing.”

Listen to more of Steve’s story on Episode 94 of DevOps Radio.

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