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Lean Product Development: The Customer Journey Value Stream – Part 2 of 4

Lean Product Development: The Customer Journey Value Stream – Part 2 of 4

This is part two of a four-part look at three Lean tools for product development. Click here to read part one, click here to read part three on Kano analysis and here to read part four on quality function deployment.


One of the more comprehensive and introspective approaches to begin Lean product development is by thinking about the whole customer experience – the whole process of using and interacting with a product. Think about the product as just one piece of the customer value stream. In order to operate a product, an end user must undergo a series of steps before and after they interact with the product. The customer journey value stream (CJVS) analysis brings together two analysis tools to holistically evaluate the user experience.

Value Stream Mapping

First, the value stream map (VSM). Widely applied in Lean circles, VSM helps identify the sequence of events in a value-added process and identify no-value-added activities called muda. For the purposes of this short overview of the CJVS, the most important aspects of VSMs are the process steps, sequence and flow, process times and wait times. The second half of the CJVS may be less familiar to Lean thinkers. Coming from a point of empathy, the customer journey analysis uses the steps identified in the VSM and describes them in the context of the customer experience. This approach doesn’t have to be that in-depth. The point of it is to feel what the user is feeling.

When these tools are applied their impact is augmented. The purpose of VSM is to identify and remove waste. With the customer journey, we can do this mindfully, taking into account how the customer feels about that step in the process. With the CJVS, innovators can remove muda from the process without damaging the customer experience. It would ultimately harm the customer experience to speed up, in the name of waste removal, the part of the process she enjoys most.

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CJVS in Action: Cleaning a Floor

As an example, take the value stream/customer journey map shown below in Figure 1. The diagram shows a stripped-down VSM for a familiar household activity, cleaning a hardwood floor. The VSM outlines eight steps in the process, indicates the time to accomplish each task and signifies that there is no waiting time between each task. From start to finish, it takes nearly 40 minutes to clean the floor.

Here, the VSM is a customer journey map. In each part of the process, the customer journey describes the general disposition and feelings of the end user during each step in the process. In this case, I was the test subject. To my surprise, none of the steps delivered any satisfaction. I was totally dissatisfied in half of the steps.

Figure 1: The CJVS of Cleaning a Hardwood Floor

Figure 1: The CJVS of Cleaning a Hardwood Floor

To start, I hated moving all the tables and chairs out of the way. As a Lean thinker, I was irked all the more knowing that at the end of the process I would have to put them back again. I was also dissatisfied with procuring my supplies. The liquid floor cleaner, bucket and mop are kept in my basement downstairs. The waste of transportation is prevalent here. After sweeping the floor, I had to prep the cleaning solution. This involved moving into the bathroom and more wastes like unscrewing the bottle top, turning on the bathtub water, waiting for the water to heat up, filling up the bucket, turning off the water and finally carrying the heavy bucket of water from the bathroom to the kitchen. Finally I cleaned the floor. Then I had to dispose of the water, put everything away and wait for the floor to dry. Finally, once the floor was dry, I was able to put back my heavy cumbersome furniture. Under 15 percent of my time was spent doing anything value added.

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The VSM coupled with the customer journey diagram creates a visual and easily approachable way to think about customer value. By specifying each step in the process, and then describing the customer attitude at each of these steps, the CJVS provides insight into which parts of the process are ripe for improvement and innovation. Calling to mind everything you saw and heard in the gemba that is the point of customer interaction, will help make sense of these attitudes and the reasoning behind these attitudes. In this case, I really didn’t mind filling the bucket with water or waiting for the water to heat up in the bathtub. What I hated was carrying the bucket from the bathtub back to the kitchen.

The CJVS allows product developers to think about the whole customer experience, not just the product itself.  The data is distilled and compiled from the gemba into a more concise and actionable voice of the customer. The CJVS also opens up two avenues to pursue to improve the customer experience.

  1. The first avenue is the traditional Lean route, reduce the non-value-added activities in each of these steps.
  2. The second lever is to improve the customer experience within a particular step.

By using the experiences and empathy gained from the gemba, Lean innovators can anticipate what drives the emotions and attitudes in each of the process steps. By changing the root causes of these attitudes, the entire customer experience can be improved.

CJVS in Action: Cleaning a Floor with a Swiffer

One of the best demonstrations of the CJVS in action comes from Proctor & Gamble. In 1994, P&G deployed a group of anthropologists to observe housewives in their daily cleaning routines. Probably because P&G is chiefly a chemical company, the initial focus of the innovation team was set on the liquid cleaning detergent. However, after seeing the arduous process described above, they developed a new product – the Swiffer. The Swiffer eliminated a lot of the waste of movement and waiting when it comes to cleaning floors. It combined the process of sweeping and washing the floor into one activity. And because the pads were not as soaked with water like a wet mop, it reduced the time it took for the floor to dry. With a Swiffer in hand, the process for cleaning the floor looks different. Over 20 percent of my time was spent doing value-added activities.

Figure 2: The CJVS of a Swiffer Cleaning a Hardwood Floor

Figure 2: The CJVS of a Swiffer Cleaning a Hardwood Floor

When Figure 1 and Figure 2 are compared, it’s easy to see that not everything in the process was changed. But what’s noteworthy is that the Swiffer grew out of the Lean elimination of waste and from sensitivity to the customer experience. In addition, the greatest improvements of Swiffer came from removing steps that didn’t interact with the product, like preparing the detergent solution and sweeping the floors as well as expanding the scope of what the product does. The Swiffer sweeps and cleans. It’s also self-contained; I didn’t have to get a bucket or wait for the water to get hot and add the cleaner and dump the dirty water out.

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Conclusion

The CJVS is the best starting place for the Lean community to engage in the processes of product development. The foundation of the tools is built off of VSM activities we should all be familiar with. The addition of the customer journey adds more context and allows us to dive deeper into the customer experience, and yet, is a simple, visual tool to use. The tool allows us to add value to product development efforts by looking at the entire value stream of a customer’s experience, not just the interaction with the product.


Click here to read part three on Kano analysis.

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