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


  • No injuries, harm or accidents
  • Immediate delivery after request received
  • One piece flow (or much smaller batch sizes)
  • Stagger work times and resources to match customer demand to eliminate waiting
  • Pull based on actual customer demand, not a schedule or forecast
  • Zero defects and minimal inspection/testing
  • Minimal waste
  • Minimal touches or movements
  • No work arounds or partial completion
  • Optimized value stream, with no sub optimization
  • Standards defined and followed for value-added activities


  • Visual workplace (easy to see current status and problems)
  • Minimal warehouse floor space
  • Right-sized equipment and tools
  • Co-location of resources across value stream
  • Right-sized or minimal inventory



  • No unplanned equipment/system downtime
  • No waiting for decisions or approvals
  • Short and frequent changeovers (SMED) of products and services
  • Just-in-time supplier delivery with no shortages


  • Cross trained and agile employees
  • Engaged employees who help solve problems
  • No overtime or overburden/stress
  • Treated with utmost respect

Business Impact

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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