Skip to main content

Lean Tools, Training, and Systems

How to show

Multiple Scenarios

in a single Flowchart or Value Stream Map


For Process Improvement: Don't

How to show Alternate Paths

How to show Different Numbers


For Process Improvement:

Don't show multiple scenarios

Although it can be tempting to try to show multiple 'things that sometimes happen'

if your goal is to improve a process, then the rule is:

Don't attempt to observe and map multiple scenarios.

Instead, observe and map one very narrowly-defined scenario.

Why only one scenario?

1) Avoid confusion

It's hard enough to keep your team focused on "doing a deep dive" into one specific condition, without chasing rabbit trails of (ever-multiplying) alternative circumstances.

2) Avoid non-value-add time

Mapping teams consist of 5-10 high-paid high-demand team members.
Chasing rabbit trails is a waste of everyone's time.

3) You haven't lost much

Although your Current State Map might narrowly focus on one type of request from one type of customer that might account for only perhaps 5-10% of demand served by this value stream or process

and yet the innovations and changes that you propose for your Future State will often benefit many other (somewhat similar) types of requests from similar customers. (perhaps applying to 50-80% of demand)

Narrowly define the scenario to map

Caution: This is where a lot of mapping teams go wrong

If your goal is to improve a process... then...

Your map should focus on one very narrowly defined scenario

even though the future state will almost always apply to a far broader range of scenarios.

Try It

If you personally don't have a lot of experience creating value stream or process maps... then please just trust us on this one.

Define one VERY specific scenario, and focus all of your attention on just that one scenario.

Leadership Tips

Team members will often want to discuss exceptions to the narrowly- defined scenario that your team chose to analyze.

When that happens, simply jot those exceptions down in the 'Exceptions and Scenarios' text box

then gracefully steer the conversation back on track, with the assurance that the team WILL come back to those exceptions AFTER doing a thorough deep dive into your one chosen scenario.

Exceptions and Scenarios text box

As you dive deeper into your chosen Scenario, continue to add conditions to your Scenario field (as they arise)... to further clarify the conditions that define the one (and only) scenario that your team is focused upon.

If you are leading a value stream mapping event,

then (if you didn't ignore the instructions for how to do value stream mapping), you will have already used your Product Family Matrix template to intelligently segregate your offerings into product families, and remember, there should usually be one value stream map per product family.


Why multiple scenarios?

1) To serve as a decision tree for standard work

If your goal is not to improve the process, but instead your goal is to visually depict the process, or to train people, or to serve as a decision tree... then yes absolutely... that's what multiple scenarios are for.

2) Easy mental comparison

the human mind is able to quickly notice differences between multiple possibilities illustrated on a single flowchart

3) Avoid non-value-add time

re-creating (and maintaining) almost-identical process maps that only have few minor differences

testimonial quote

Differences between a flowchart and a value stream map

Value Stream Map

Never a decision diamond.
Percentage flows are popular, but almost never a good idea.
Paths and Scenarios can be very useful.

See the next section for explanations of each.

Cross Functional Flowchart

When used for Current and Future State process improvement,

it is almost always best to stay focused on one narrowly defined scenario.

In other words... if your goal is to improve a process, then do NOT observe or depict multiple scenarios.

When used for Standard Work...

then it is very popular to use your functional flowchart as a decision tree, depicting different paths where "the thing being processed" might flow.

Examples: Rush order vs. Typical Order. Regular vs. Expedited.
Typical vs. Escalated Support Request...


How to show Alternate Paths

You might use any or all of the following...

Use your Exceptions text box

Rather than cluttering your flow chart or value stream map with too much complexity...
it is often a better idea to:

  1. Choose one clearly defined Scenario to observe and map
  2. Use your Exceptions text box to add a few brief notes regarding note-worthy exceptions
    that differ in some ways from the scenario that your team has chosen to study and map
Exceptions and Scenarios text box

Use a Decision Diamond

If you're making a flowchart (not a value stream map!)

then the most popular way to illustrate divergent possible paths is to use a Decision Diamond.

If you are just making a flowchart that doesn't attempt to calculate any math, this is a real easy and practical way for the human mind to follow the alternate logic paths.

If you're using your Swim Lane Cross Functional Flowchart template then you're going to need to supplement your visual Decision Diamond symbol with a way to get the math right. (using 'Path Codes' described below)

Tip: There should be no data in any of the cells surrounding a Decision Diamond.

You might, however, use small transparent text boxes to clarify the path branches.

For example... Yes, or No
or 70%, 30%

Use Percentage Flows

If you're making a value stream map, then you should never use a decision diamond.

If there is a decision diamond on a value stream map, most experts will cringe and dismiss you as "amateur".

Some of those same experts, however, will bend the rules by assigning percentages of flow to alternate flow paths on their value stream maps

(which technically serves the exact same purpose as a decision diamond... but just do it their way.)

If your sensei allows you to bend the rules by assigning percentages to alternate flow paths,

keeping in mind that about half of lean sensei's won't allow it at all... insisting that a value stream map should depict one and only one flow path. But if your sensei does allow it...

then you will need to get the math right.

(using 'Path Codes' described below)

vsm percentage flows


Path Codes in a Cross Functional Flowchart

Let's start with your Cross Functional Flowchart template (FunctionalFlow.xlsx)

(and then we'll look at how to use Path Codes for a value stream map)

On the same flowchart, you can use 'Path' codes to illustrate (and calculate) different paths through which the thing being transformed might flow.

In the animated picture below, we illustrate two different scenarios:

  1. The Typical Path
  2. A Rush Order
Cross functional flowchart - animiated gif

Things to notice

Things to notice as you play with and learn to use Paths in your functional flowchart template

Look at the Path field in the upper right corner of your flowchart

If that Path field is blank, then all fields will simply calculate as expected.

In other words, it is okay to completely ignore and simply don't use Path codes.

If you have selected a Path code

If you have selected a Path code in that cell (in the upper right corner of your flowchart)


  1. The background color changes to highlight those Processes that are included within your currently-selected Path
  2. All of the Lean metrics are calculated based on only those Processes that are included within your currently-selected Path

How to change the Path code for your flowchart

In that Path code cell (in the upper right corner of your flowchart)

select a Path code

using the dropdown list of Path codes
that you defined on the DV sheet

then if there are any #N/A errors...

recalculate (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+F9)

Path code

How to include or exclude processes from a Path

In the cell just above and to the right of each Process box there is a dropdown list where you can (optionally) select a Path code

(Optionally define your list of Path codes on your DV sheet)

If you have selected a Path code in the upper right corner of your flowchart, then...

Path code

To include a Process within the currently-selected Path, the Path code for the process must

  1. match the currently-selected Path, or
  2. be blank

If you are using an older template (v15 R160800 or lower), then the Path code has to match. Blanks are not included in the old version.

To exclude a Process from the currently-selected Path, simply choose a Path code other than the currently-selected Path code.

In the newer version, the very first choice in the dropdown list is a black square symbol, which makes a very visual way to indicate that a process is excluded for your currently-chosen Path.

Which steps need path codes?

If a step is always performed...

then simply leave the path code blank for that step.

If a step is performed in just one situation...

then simply use the dropdown list to choose the right path code to indicate when that step is performed.

For example, if most steps are performed monthly, but some steps are performed only quarterly or annually, then you might use Path Codes Q for quarterly and A for Annual.

If a step is performed in multiple scenarios, but not all...

then perhaps use Excel's scenarios feature.

For example, when you choose scenario 'Annual', the path code for a step might be 'A', and when you choose scenario 'Monthly', the path code for that same step might become 'M', and when you choose scenario 'Typical', the path code for that same step might be blank.

If you imported old state comparison data

If you used the button to Import Old State Data,

(for side-by-side comparisons of lean metrics)

Import Old State Data

then if the currently selected Path code (in the upper right corner) does not match the Path code for the Import Old State Comparison Data, then the error-checking cell turns purple

thereby alerting you that if you want to view valid comparisons, you would need to view comparison data for the same Path code


Path Codes in a Value Stream Map

Your Systems2win Value Stream Mapping template allows you to use optional 'Path' codes.

Enter the Path code for each Process in the (unmarked) cell immediately above each Process Box.

value stream map path codes

If a process has a Path code,

it will only be included in calculations if it matches the Path code in the header

near the top of your value stream map

If a process does not have a Path code, it WILL be included in calculations.

value stream map path header

Learning Experiment:

On the Sample sheet of your VSM template, use the 'Hide/Show Row's button to unhide Simultaneous Processes Tier 2

and notice that each of those processes have a Path Code = S.


the math for those "S" processes will only calculate if the Path Code in the value stream header is "S".

Learning Experiment:

Enter 'S' in Path Code cell in the value stream header, (cell H78?)

and then Recalculate (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+F9)

and notice that the calculations become active for any process that has Path Code = S

Delete or change the Path Code in the value stream header, (cell H78?) and notice that the calculations become disabled for any process that has Path Code = S

Baby awe

Path Codes... Wow

My programmer says
he wouldn't know how to do that

and I've already paid him
more than it would cost
for all 150+ Systems2win templates

testimonial quote


How to show Different Numbers

The Path might stay the same for all products in the Product Family depicted on your Value Stream Map,

but you might want to show different numbers for high, low, and average

or different numbers for each product within the Product Family

How do you do it?

Option 1) Don't

By far the most common practice is to enter data for (only) a single set of numbers,

usually the typical median or average

Remember, this is familiar Excel. You can always open a temporary second copy of the document, and then type in experimental numbers to do quick one-time analyses.

Familiar Excel

Use Comments

Rather than entering multiple sets of data, perhaps enter only the typical median or average, and then use Comments to make note of the range of variability.

Comments might be entered using:

Use User-Defined Rows

Your Systems2win values stream mapping template allows you to easily copy 3 different types of correctly-formatted rows for user-defined fields:

  1. Within a process
  2. Between a process
  3. Both Within and Between a Process

Learn how to easily copy rows of user-defined fields ANYWHERE in your template.

Tip: If you need to use the button to 'Unprotect' the sheet, just be sure to immediately re-protect, so that you don't accidentally mess up unprotected formulas.

value stream map user fields - 3 types of rows

How to use User-Defined Rows to show Different Numbers

Copy the (correctly formatted) row, then paste as many new rows as you need just beneath any data input row that might have variable data.

Notice that cells that can receive data input have a double border.
Don't accidentally overwrite formulas in cells that don't have a double border.

And then at any time, you can copy the data from any one of your user-defined rows and paste it into the data input cells for the (original) row (that is referenced by Systems2win formulas)


In this illustration, just below the row for 'Process Time', there are 3 rows of user-defined data for:

  1. Typical Median Average
  2. High
  3. Low
user-defined rows

The data input row for 'Process Time' is the ONLY row that is referenced by all calculations.

The 3 rows of User-Defined data are usually hidden, but can be unhidden at any time, so that you can copy the data from any one of those rows, and paste that data into the row for 'Process Time'

thereby changing all calculations to show what happens when 'Process Time' is 'High' or 'Low' or 'Average'.

In this same way, you can add (usually hidden) user-defined rows for ANY data input that might vary:

perhaps Lead Time, Distance Traveled, Cost, Steps...
ANY data input cells (that have a double border)

Use Excel Scenarios

After watching our short training video to learn how to use Excel Scenarios, you will see how you can instantly switch between different sets of data with a single click of your mouse and you will soon grow to love this powerful feature that is not available with any other value stream mapping software

Excel Scenarios can be used with both your value stream mapping template, and (even more popularly) with your Swim Lane Cross Functional Flowchart.

Scenario field in header

Tip: Use the 'Scenario' field in the header
to let you readers know which Scenario they' re looking at

testimonial quote

Combine Path codes and Scenarios

Path codes are even more useful when combined with Excel Scenarios.

If 'Path' codes are included in the cells that get changed when you switch between the Scenarios that you define, then your bottom-line metrics will instantly change to reflect the totals for your currently-selected Scenario/Path, thereby making it extremely easy to illustrate multiple scenarios within a single swim lane flow chart or value stream map.

cartoon - home run

Use your Systems2win templates
to hit your next assignment
out of the park

Using any combination of Path Codes and Scenarios, you can depict and analyze multiple possible process flows on one flowchart or value stream map — without wasting your time re-drawing an almost-identical map for each scenario.