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Learning to See

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Learning to See

Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate Muda

Lean Enterprise Institute,

15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Learn to see your facility as a value stream manager sees it.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable
  • Well Structured
  • For Experts


Lean production is the gold standard in production systems, but has proven famously difficult to implement in North America. Mass production relies on large inventories, uses “push” processes and struggles with long lead times. Moving towards a system that eliminates muda (“waste”) caused by overproduction, while challenging, proves necessary for improved efficiency. Often overlooked, value stream mapping is the essential planning stage for any Lean transformation. In Mike Rother and John Shook’s essential guide, you follow the value stream mapping undertaken for Acme Stamping, for its current and future state. Fully illustrated and well-organized, Learning to See is a must-see for the value stream manager.


A value stream takes a “big picture” perspective and tackles the whole, not only the parts.

Lean thinking has a “Just do it!” ethic, in the spirit of Taiichi Ohno and his Toyota colleagues, that inspires managers to adopt the now-famous Toyota Production System. Some companies eliminated preparatory work and jumped into “muda elimination activities,” costing valuable time and resources, to little effect. Eliminating waste in one area but ignoring other areas does not improve overall production. Too often, managers become frustrated and give up. Lean requires a commitment to the entire value stream. 

To integrate Lean into your processes, gain a value stream perspective. The first “tool kit” project of the Lean Enterprise Institute is the value stream map. This map allows you to identify every process on your shop floor. This “door-to-door” approach may seem daunting, but you needn’t improve everything at once. Starting with the whole, isolate the parts – or “loops” – that need improving. The value stream map helps you see the “flow” in your facility and shows sources of waste.

Start with a product family to simplify the map. Identify...

About the Authors

Mike Rother introduced the widespread business practices of Value Stream Mapping and Toyota Kata (Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata). John Shook became Toyota’s first American kacho (manager) in Japan and was senior American manager with the Toyota Supplier Support Center in Lexington, Kentucky, assisting North American companies to adopt the Toyota Production System. The Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc. (LEI) spreads Lean thinking and practice, and is a founding member of the Lean Global Network. 

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