How to Implement Value Stream Mapping for Your Agile Projects

Lean manufacturing practices like value stream mapping are becoming increasingly popular in Agile software development. This is not surprising as more people are realising that mapping out the end-to-end workflow helps optimize the flow of work through the entire Agile process.

With a visualized workflow, it becomes easier for you to identify waste and bottlenecks to be addressed. This enables the implementation of a future state value stream map which serves as a blueprint for an improved process flow.

In this article, we explore when and how to implement value stream mapping in Agile projects to achieve more efficient software delivery, its advantages, as well as an example to provide clarity on how this works in reality.

What is a Value Stream?

First, you need to have a clear understanding of what a value stream is. A value stream represents the sequence of process steps that are followed to deliver a product or service to the customer.

It encompasses the specific activities required to bring an item through the entire production system, from raw materials to finished products.

The value stream view helps you visualize the flow of work across departments, seeing how the product gains value as it moves through each process.

Understanding your end-to-end value stream is key to identifying bottlenecks, delays, and inefficiencies that impact product flow and delivery. This holistic view allows you to optimize the overall workflow to improve speed and quality.

What is Value Stream Mapping in Agile?

Value stream mapping is a Lean tool that helps visualize and optimize the flow of work in an Agile software development process by providing a system-level perspective of the end-to-end workflow from idea to deployment.

A value stream map highlights the current sequence of process steps, including where value-adding and non-value-adding activities occur. This helps uncover waste and delays that should be reduced or eliminated.

The current state map is then used to design an improved future state map that serves as a guide for a leaner process flow.

Value stream mapping fosters cross-functional collaboration since it encompasses the handoffs between different roles and teams which aligns everyone on process improvements that will help achieve faster delivery of high-quality software.

Two Types of Value Stream Maps

When applying value stream mapping in an Agile context, you create a current state map and a future state map which are complementary maps.

1. Current State Map

The current state map captures all the actual process activities required today to take a product from concept to launch. It provides a snapshot of the existing workflow including handoffs between teams or systems.

It visually highlights all the non-value adding elements present such as bottlenecks, delays, excess WIP, or rework.

This enables you to thoroughly analyze your value stream to uncover opportunities for improvement. Once you understand problem areas, you can define solutions to optimize the workflow.

2. Future State Map

The future state map outlines what the value stream will look like after the planned improvements have been implemented.

An ideal future state has eliminated waste and unnecessary complexity to achieve smoother flow and serves as a target blueprint that guides incremental changes to your Agile process.

Having the current and future state maps fosters a culture of continuous improvement. Comparing them illuminates the gaps you need to address to achieve a leaner delivery process.

Regularly updating these maps keeps you aligned on enhancing workflow efficiency over time.

What is the Primary Purpose of Value Stream Mapping in Agile?

The primary purpose of value stream mapping in an Agile context is to optimize the end-to-end workflow to improve the speed and quality of product delivery. It provides a visual mechanism to identify inefficiencies, waste, and bottlenecks across the entire process flow.

By highlighting problem areas in the current state, value stream mapping enables designing a future state map that acts as an implementation guide for incremental process improvements.

What Triggers the Need for a Value Stream in Agile?

There are a few key triggers that signal the need to map out your Agile value stream:

  • Your team senses that your current process contains a lot of waste but you lack visibility into where and how.
  • You experience frequent bottlenecks and delays but don’t know the root cause.
  • Your cycle time and lead time are longer than they should be based on team velocity.
  • Your product quality is inconsistent release over release.
  • You need to onboard new teams onto a common development process.
  • You want to drive a culture of continuous improvement rather than reacting to problems.

Essentially any scenario where your workflow efficiency needs improvement is an opportunity for value stream mapping.

When is Value Stream Mapping Used in Agile?

Value stream mapping can be utilized at various times within an Agile environment to optimize workflow.

Here are some instances when value stream mapping is used:

Initial Process Definition

When first transitioning to Agile, value stream mapping helps teams align on the end-to-end workflow and highlight improvements for a lean process. The future state map serves as the foundation for your Agile process.

Onboarding New Teams

As you scale Agile, value stream mapping brings new teams up to speed on the workflow and guides their integration fostering a shared understanding of process steps and handoffs.

Addressing Bottlenecks

When facing frequent bottlenecks, value stream mapping pinpoints causes of delay with the future state map outlining the solutions to achieve a smooth flow.

Continuous Improvement

Value stream mapping at regular intervals fosters iterative optimization of workflow efficiency over time. Comparing current and future state maps shows the progress made.

How to Implement Value Stream Mapping in Agile Projects

To effectively apply value stream mapping within your Agile projects, follow these key steps:

1. Define the Scope

First, determine the specific product value stream you want to map that takes it from concept to launch. Clarify the start and end points, teams involved, and outputs. Keep the initial scope narrow by focusing on a single Agile team’s workflow.

2. Create a Cross-Functional Team

Involve representatives from all roles that touch the defined value stream and have a facilitator guide the process. This cross-functional perspective is key for thorough mapping.

3. Map the Current State

Outline every step in the current workflow from end to end. Capture process steps, handoffs, queues, rework loops, and delays visually, and identify value-add vs. non-value-add elements.

4. Analyze the Current State

With the current state mapped, analyze it to uncover problem areas causing inefficiency, waste, and bottlenecks. Look for opportunities to eliminate steps or combine activities.

5. Design the Future State

Define the ideal future workflow eliminating non-value adds by brainstorming improvements to address issues identified. Show the new streamlined flow with fewer steps and handoffs.

6. Incrementally Work Towards Future State

Prioritize and sequence the implementation of improvements shown in the future state map, then pilot changes on a small scale first. Measure the outcomes and gather feedback, then refine as needed.

7. Regularly Update the Maps

As you implement changes, update the current state map, and compare it to the future state to validate the progress made. Then continue incremental enhancements over time.

8. Expand the Scope

Once your initial value stream is smooth, broaden the scope to include upstream and downstream teams. Rinse and repeat steps 2-7 to widen the lens.

The key is taking an iterative approach to value stream mapping – continuously inspecting and adapting as you optimize flow.

Advantages of Using Value Stream Mapping in an Agile Project

Applying value stream mapping in your Agile projects provides multiple benefits:

Visualize the End-to-End Workflow

A value stream map provides a clear visualization of your current process workflow from concept to completion and offers full systems-level visibility that highlights improvement areas.

Identify Waste and Bottlenecks

The current state map illuminates sources of waste, rework, and delays impeding flow. Root causes of bottlenecks become evident. This insight guides targeted improvements.

Align Cross-functional Teams

Value stream mapping requires involvement from all teams that touch the workflow being mapped. This fosters an understanding of upstream and downstream handoffs and cross-functional alignment.

Guide Incremental Improvements

The future state map outlines an optimized workflow and serves as an actionable blueprint for iterative enhancements by defining the vision for a leaner process.

Embed Continuous Improvement

Comparing current and future state maps fosters a culture of continuously identifying opportunities to improve flow and eliminate waste via small changes.

Accelerate Cycle Time

Smoothing out workflow results in reduced waiting times, handoffs, and other non-value-add activities which accelerates the delivery of value and improves productivity.

Improve Quality

Eliminating rework and defects results in more consistent output quality. Less workflow complexity also reduces risks of quality issues.

Value Stream Mapping in Agile Example

Let’s walk through an example of how an Agile team can utilize value stream mapping to improve their workflow.

A company marketing team needs a new feature added to their customer portal, and the front-end Agile team will develop this request.

Current State Map

The Product Owner calls a meeting to create a current state map of their team’s workflow for feature requests.

Representing development, QA, and ops, they map out these key steps:

  • Marketing submits request into backlog tool
  • Dev refines and estimates backlog items
  • PO prioritizes features in Sprint Planning
  • Dev codes feature over 2-week Sprint
  • Code is peer-reviewed before testing starts
  • QA tests feature for 3 days after the code is complete
  • Ops deploys feature after testing passes

Looking at the map, they notice a queue of 2 days between dev completing coding and QA starting testing due to code review and testing setup. Deploy also takes 1 day after testing.


Analyzing the current state, the bottlenecks appear to be the queues between activities. The PO suggests QA do code reviews to shorten the queue, and Dev and Ops collaborate to combine deployment with testing.

Future State Map

The team designs a future state map eliminating the queues between dev, QA, and ops. The new steps are:

  • Marketing submits request
  • PO prioritizes item
  • Dev codes feature over sprint
  • Dev assists QA with testing setup
  • QA reviews code and tests feature when code is complete
  • Ops deploys feature after successful testing

Incremental Change

QA pilots joining code reviews and pulling testing forward for one Sprint. The outcome is positive, shortening their feature cycle time. This success helps gain buy-in for larger process changes.

Continuous Improvement

The team plans to continue evolving their workflow over time guided by the future state map. Value stream mapping gives them a mechanism to incrementally optimize cycle time and flow.

This example illustrates how an Agile team can leverage value stream mapping to identify and address bottlenecks.


Value stream mapping brings immense value to Agile teams striving to optimize workflow and enable leaner delivery of products or services.

Creating current and future state maps fosters alignment on the end-to-end process flow and illuminates opportunities for continuous improvement.

This Lean practice provides the visibility needed to drive waste out of the system and smooth out bottlenecks that impede flow. The future state value stream map acts as an actionable guide for incrementally enhancing process efficiency over time.

Overall, integrating value stream mapping into your Agile framework paves the path to faster realization of business value. You can gain the speed, quality, and customer responsiveness benefits of a lean, waste-free value stream.

David Usifo (PSM, MBCS, PMP®)
David Usifo (PSM, MBCS, PMP®)

David Usifo is a certified project manager professional, professional Scrum Master, and a BCS certified Business Analyst with a background in product development and database management.

He enjoys using his knowledge and skills to share with aspiring and experienced project managers and product developers the core concept of value-creation through adaptive solutions.

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