Get LEAN with Visio

We all know LEAN Six Sigma as a tool for production companies use to improve processes. I recently attended a pretty awesome LEAN Green Belt training provided by 12mprove to learn more about LEAN because I think it can benefit our Agile SCRUM methodology and IT department as a whole. I will dive into the (im)possibilities at a later date. 🙂

Excerpt from RĂ©gis Medina presentation

Excerpt from RĂ©gis Medina presentation


Great course, great tools but… I felt we could do better than Excel when we’re drafting a Value Stream Map (VSM for short). So I’ve created my own using Visio 2016, an Excel Workbook and a custom Visio stencil.

Step 1: download & extract the files

Clicking the link  should provide you with a 7zip file:

LEAN Templates

Extract them somewhere. The folder contains 3 files: an Excel file, a Visio template and a Visio Stencil.

Extracted files

Extracted files

If you double-click on the Visio template it should automatically create a drawing based on the template that includes the linked Excel file and adds a Value Stream Map stencil. The template is based on the Cross-Functional Flowchart provided by Microsoft.


Step 2: Creating your Value Stream Map

The External Data window in Visio will import from the LEAN VSM Workbook Excel file.
There are 4 tabs in this file:

  • Roles : This only serves as an input for the dropdown in the Steps and Kaizen sheet
  • Steps : Each individual process step is registered here
  • Kaizen: Register the observed types of  “waste” here
  • Totals : will reflect the process efficiency and other relevant statistics

Fill out the worksheet as best you can. It’s ok if steps are added later, you can refresh the data in Visio.

When you double-click the LEAN VSM -Template- file you automatically create a new drawing based on this template.

  • Rename the swim lane to represent your functional Roles (e.g. Customer)
New VSM Visio drawing

New VSM Visio drawing


To create a process step:

  • Select the Step shape in the stencil
  • Drag and drop a data row from External Data – Steps onto the appropriate swim lane

To create a Kaizen burst:

  • Select the Kaizen shape in the stencil
  • Drag and drop a data row from External Data – Kaizen onto the appropriate swim lane

Warnings & Best Practices

If the data connection doesn’t work you should first check if the External Data link is configured correctly. I’ve noticed Visio doing some creative things with URLs. You can get to this window by right-clicking the sheet and click Configure Refresh.

When configuring the refresh DON’T set it to refresh at a specified interval! I’ve had some really weird things happen with my Visio during a session. My advice is to have an Extended screen where Visio is on the big screen and the Excel is open on your laptop. You can drag and drop a shape to link it to a row, update the info in Excel, then refresh in Visio at your own preference.

If you create a new VSM based on this template it is easiest to copy the entire folder. I haven’t figured out how to get a new workbook linked in without breaking functionality with the stencil. Technically this should be possible but… Visio is an interesting beast and I can give no guarantees. 🙂

Good luck! If you have improvements or feedback be sure to let me know.