Lessons from Chipotle’s Winning Value Stream Management Approach

The food retailer is fueling its ongoing innovation by incorporating value stream management best practices.

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While businesses in every industry have been affected by Covid in some fashion, the dining sector has seen especially dramatic change. Chipotle is no exception. Through our organization’s optimized value stream management approaches, however, we’ve been able to adapt quickly to these new realities, and set a foundation that will fuel continued success.

In the following sections, I’ll provide a look at our key strategies and efforts that have helped boost our growth. 

Keys to Our Value Stream Management Success

A longtime leader and innovator in the industry, Chipotle has grown to include more than 97,000 employees and operate 2,800 restaurants. To support this growth, we had embarked on a journey to evolve our program management organization. We sought to move from being an IT Portfolio Management office and start maturing into a true Enterprise Portfolio Management organization. One of the key strategies we employed to achieve this is value stream management.

Some of the best practices that helped power the success of our value stream initiatives:

  • Gain top-down support. Our leadership effectively communicated with staff across the organization, helping articulate our priorities and acting as champions of our initiatives. Without that kind of support, projects and initiatives are virtually certain to fail.
  • Eliminate silos. From the start, it was an imperative to involve all stakeholders in establishing effective value streams. We brought together product teams, digital marketing groups, scrum masters, and planners.
  • Start early and iterate often. Historically we had taken the approach of factoring in every potential scenario, and trying to establish a “perfect” process. I realized that we lost time by taking this approach. We found it is more important to iterate as we go and to learn and fail fast so we can adapt and succeed quickly.

The Payoff: How We’re Benefiting

By applying the principles above, we’ve been able to realize a number of advantages:

  • Enhanced alignment. Based on the foundation we established, our enterprise program management organization was better able to ensure that our initiatives, investments, and efforts were more effectively aligned with key business outcomes.
  • Improved data-driven insights. Through our value stream approaches, we started tracking progress based on actual work rather than relying on manual status reporting. This data is key, helping us know to which requests to say yes or no, based on objective information, rather than our hunches or opinions.
  • Enhanced agility. Through our successful value stream management approaches, we’ve established a collective mindset and an environment that enables fast execution and adaptation. This has become part of our DNA, and will help position us for success moving forward.

To Learn More

To learn more about how Chipotle instituted a comprehensive value stream management strategy, be sure to view their on-demand session from the June 23rd, 2021 Value Stream Management Summit. The event also featured insights from industry leaders and Forrester analysts and practitioners. Find out how value stream management can help your organization, and how to get started.


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