Why I like using the Ideal State Mapping approach

During Value Stream Mapping or Process Mapping events, I facilitate a team through the current state map of the process, to understand the problems, wastes and opportunities in the process.

Next, we discuss a future state map, and develop a plan to close the gap from current to future state.

However, before we create the future state map, I like to first walk the team through an ideal state discussion.

What is an ideal state?

I ask the team to think of the following: “How would you setup this process if you were starting from scratch, with no boundaries, all the money, all the people, all the resources you wanted, along with the following principles in place?”

The reason I ask this is to get the team to think “outside the box” and break away from the current structure and limitations of today’s process.

Here are the principles and concepts I ask them think about the ideal state process, that incorporate the key concepts of Lean and Six Sigma

  • One piece flow (or much smaller batch sizes)
  • Pull based on actual customer demand, not a schedule or forecast
  • Balance the workload and resources (no delays or waiting in the workflow)
  • Zero defects and minimal inspection/testing
  • Right-sized or minimal inventory
  • Just-in-time supplier delivery with no shortages
  • Minimal warehouse floor space
  • Right-sized equipment and tools
  • Minimal waste
  • Visual workplace (easy to see current status and problems)
  • Proactive management and prevention
  • Co-location of resources across value stream
  • Value Stream Map ownership
  • No waiting for decisions or approvals
  • Cross trained and agile employees
  • Engaged employees who help solve problems
  • Optimized value stream, with no sub optimization
  • No unplanned equipment/system downtime
  • Standards defined and followed for value-added activities
  • Balance and stagger work times and resources with process variability and demand
  • Leaders as coaches
  • Dedicated time for improvements
  • Minimal costs
  • No environmental wastes
  • No negative impact on society or the local community

Then I ask the team, “what would your process look with these concepts in place?”

Sometimes I help them create a physical map of that ideal state, but other times we just talk about the concepts and capture the key themes and features of the ideal state (especially if we are running behind on time in the event).

With this new way of thinking, I find that the future state map ends up being more transformational and forward-thinking, compared to processes where we don’t use an ideal state.

What are your experiences with ideal state mapping? What other concepts do you consider in ideal state?


Want to learn more about Lean and Six Sigma tools, and apply them to an improvement projects? Check out these low-cost online courses and certification programs



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