A2.4. Value Stream Mapping (VSM)

Value Stream Mapping (VSM)

What should I expect the outcomes to be of using the tool?

  • Is a big picture perspective – it is the essential tool
  • Called a System Picture in Cumbria County Council
  • Helps you see the sources of waste in your value stream and processes
  • Focuses on improving  the whole, not optimising pieces of the process
  • Is a tool for establishing a vision and implementation plan to get to that vision
  • You can use it to map your progress in improvement
  • Helps to focus on value across a number of processes rather than just a small part 
  • Provides you with an action plan of potential improvements/changes

Tool/ method

Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is about identifying and analysing value from a customer/patient perspective.  It is a development of Process Mapping, with detailed data on time: 

  • Waiting times between process steps
  • The time of each step and of the whole process
  • Who is involved in each step
  • What is value and not value added time


Key measurements:

Cycle Time (CT)

The time it takes to complete one task

Lead Time

The time it takes for the whole process from start to finish including waits


Number or amount of need from service users/customers

Takt Time (TT)

The rate at which we need to complete work to meet demand Takt  time = Time available/Demand

Value added time (VA)

Non Value added time (NVA)


  • Provides a common language and understanding of the value stream (processes that add value)
  • Helps visualise the whole pathway and the relationship between processes
  • It shows the relationship between information and material/document/patient or customer/data flow

- It helps to identify waste and the sources of the waste

- It becomes an action plan of where to do the improvements first

Why we may choose to use this tool/ method?

  • It is a visual way to identify potential improvements and goals.
  • It can be used as an extension of Process Mapping.
  • You can use it to measure progress of your improvement. 

How you might use this tool/ method?

As with process mapping, we start with the current state and use this to develop our future state. 



Detail exactly what is happening now and where the areas for improvement are.



Detail what the expected system should look like after improvements have been made.


Mapping stages:

  1. Identify the process / pathway you wish to map and identify the stakeholders
  2. Collect data to aid with understanding the process
    • Go & See the process flow, talk to the people that carry out the process, get real actual data
  3. Create the current state map
    • Map the process, add the data, show the flow of information
  4. Analyse the current state map
    • Review the flow, data, value added operations, non value added operations, wastes, bottlenecks, batching, duplication (use the waste wheel)
  5. Look for areas of improvement
    • Identify what can be improved by changing the flow or eliminating the wastes.
  6. Create the Future State Map
    • This is a visual representation of your improved process. 


Coloured post it notes are used to represent different parts of the process e.g. yellow for the key process steps, orange where information is needed from outside the process.  Pink is used to identify issues/problems etc. (it depends what colours of post it notes you have).  Green can be used to identify hand offs.


How to do it?

  • You’ll need to involve everyone who has an input/linked to the process
  • Protected time
  • Location – Close to the pathway/process you wish to map (ideally where the work happens)
  • Mapping toolkit
    • Brown paper
    • Post it notes
    • Pens
    • Flip chart
    • Stop watch to measure each step in process 

What next?

  • Use PDSA to test improvements
  • Keep doing it – when you have made the improvements, the future state map is now the current state map and you are ready to carry on looking for further improvements.
  • Show others
  • Start small but think big (are there external processes that could benefit from VSM)

Examples/ case studies/ links to best practice/ evidence

There are templates that are useful to use when VSM and these can give a guide for you to use on your brown paper.



Contact for further information

Karen McAllister - CLIC Programme Manager



Templates and visualisations: