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Current State Map

A current state map is a snapshot of how a process is currently done. It may be a current state process flowchart, or a current state value stream map (VSM), but the principle is the same. It shows the current methodology of how you produce products or perform services for your customers.

Current state maps are one of the bedrocks of continuous improvement. You have to fully understand where you are in order to make improvements. This full understanding doesn’t come from discussing a process in a conference room. It comes from going to gemba (the real place) and watching the process. It is not uncommon to see a group of people in a conference room doing a current state map arguing about how a task is done. There is no substitute for observation when trying to develop a current state map.

Current state maps can get complicated in a hurry. There are frequently ‘hidden factories’ that disrupt flow. There are also often personal choices that drive how things are done. There are lots of ‘If-Then’ loops.

Current state VSMs are useful in both administrative processes and in manufacturing. Process maps, though, tend to be used more heavily in office functions than in manufacturing. Oh the shop floor, tasks tend to be linear, and other tools tend to work better (time observation sheets and standard work sheets).

Current state maps are one end of the bridge to a future state map, often defined as the 6-month or 1-year vision of what the process should be. You can build this bridge in one of two ways. You do a future state map, find the differences, and make the changes to get there. This is the preferred method, as it doesn’t work around poor processes. The downside is that it tends to be effort intensive. There is little consideration given to the amount of work it will take to make the future state map a reality—you just decide what will work best.

The other method is to identify significant shortcomings in your process, and draw a new future state map based on this. This is the more common of the two methods. Most people are not willing to commit the resources needed to do a complete overhaul of a process, and as a result the optimal future state map is seldom completed.


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