What is Operational Excellence in the Office?

Kevin Duggan, with Tim Healey, recently published an important new book that expands on, and transcends, the topic of value stream mapping titled Operational Excellence in Your Office: A Guide to Achieving Autonomous Value Stream Flow with Lean Techniques. I asked Kevin to specifically tell me: “What separates this book from all the others on value stream mapping?” Here is his complete answer:

Operational Excellence in Your Office is much different than previous value stream mapping books. The subject matter of this book is achieving true Operational Excellence in the office, and not ways to merely eliminate waste in the office. True Operational Excellence is defined as “when each and every employee can see the flow of value to the customer, and fix that flow when it breaks down.” This means we establish “self-healing value streams” that run autonomously day in and day out without management intervention.

The book provides a detailed overview of exactly what Operational Excellence is and how it applies in the office. The book does not teach how to create value stream maps, but it uses value stream maps to show how to design self-healing flow in the office. 

The word design here is key. In many value stream mapping techniques, we have been taught to make a current state map, look for waste, and think of an ideal state, or use brainstorming tools to try and develop a future state. However, in Operational Excellence, it’s different. In Operational Excellence, we create a current state; however, we then put it on the wall and just leave it there. The next step is to learn the nine guidelines of office flow. These guideline teach us how to handle high variation in customer demand (as the concept of traditional takt time just won’t work in the office), how to sequence work, where we can possibly do a one-piece processing cell, how to move work through the office using workflow cycles, how to move large amounts of information from one area of the company to another, where we can initialize work and at what points can we re-sequence work, how to tell if the office flows are on time, and what to do when the customer changes their demand or new demand comes in that exceeds what the value stream was designed to do. 

The key to these guidelines is that they provide a method to design what we will then consider to be normal flow. And by establishing normal flow, we have then established what abnormal flow is. 

Understanding and reacting to abnormal flow is a state that very few companies achieve. However, this is exactly the goal of Operational Excellence: seeing, understanding, and correcting abnormal flow without the need for any management intervention. Without the need for management to direct and control information flow in the office with status meetings, update meetings, or meetings to fix abnormal conditions, management can now spend their time on activities that grow the business, or offense activities. 

What separates this book from other value stream mapping books is that we are not teaching value stream mapping in this book; we are teaching how to design value streams that achieve Operational Excellence in your office. Value streams designed using the guidelines in the book can then become self-healing, and deliver the service day in and day out autonomously, without the need for management intervention, freeing up time for management to spend on growing the business. 

Are there any readers familiar with "self-healing value streams"? If so, what have been your experiences?