NVA in VSM Products?


Pre-Printed Value Stream Mapping Post-it Symbols – 6 Post-it's per sheet

I'm not picking on the retailer… I support the “Lean Supermarket” and they've been an advertiser before. They didn't invent these, but this seems like a solution looking for a problem.

I'm all for post-it note Value Stream Mapping. That's how I have always preferred to do it, in factories and in hospitals. I've never for a moment been slowed down and thought “wow, it's so hard to draw a kaizen burst.”

I really don't understand how this post-it, pictured left, is helpful at all. If there are 4 “eyeglasses” on a post-it, how would the bottom two stick to a Value Stream Map on the wall? Wouldn't the time spent getting clear tape outweight the “time saved” from not having to draw eyeglasses?

What do you think? Am I being too harsh on the product? Would you ever buy these? Would you mock those who did (even running the risk of violating the “respect for people” principle in the process)?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Too harsh: no, definitely not.
    My understanding is that you get 6 stickers per $0.99 sheet. Even though they probably are sticking on their entire surface, it doesn’t seem like the deal of the year to me… Maybe they wanted to illustrate the concept of waste in a subtle way?

  2. You’re not too harsh at all Mark. This appears to be consistent with the biggest mistake that people make in value stream and process mapping. That is that people believe that their objective is to build a map. Maps are not magic. They do not actually tell us what to do. Instead, the real purpose is to generate a COMMON understanding of the current state. That means it is the discussions that occurs during the act of building the map that is the value. The map just helps along the conversation. People lose focus on their purpose in mapping, and this seems to be one more example of the same behavior.

  3. Definitely not too harsh. I am a huge fan of using post-its to map out the value stream since it is quick and easy and using software like eVSM later on to finalize or clean up a map. Most of the products I have found have either been too expensive or not of added value to the creation of the map. In the image above the “go-see” symbol appears to be what you are buying, can’t anyone draw that out on a blank post-it? About the only product I have been satisfied with are the data boxes from vsmtag.com. The fields on the data boxes at least guide our groups to get consistant and complete data. Any of the other symbols we just draw on blank post-its.


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