Learning to See Office Waste

by JoeWhite 25. March 2010 04:46

Lean is the constant pursuit of identifying and eliminating waste and there are many different tools that Lean practitioners use to accomplish this goal, but they all align with the one guiding principle of identifying and eliminating waste. We will discuss many types of waste in upcoming posts, but we should lay some ground rules and agree on some basic principles before going too deep.

First, let’s agree on how to define waste. I will give you the accepted definition, but your input would make this a much richer exploration, so please respond by adding to my definition or challenging it as you see fit. Primarily, waste is the opposite of value. Of course, this leads to the question of what is value. Since value may be a little simpler to get our minds around, let’s first define it as anything the customer is willing to pay for. Think of value as something that changes the form, fit, or function of a tangible product that the customer buys, or any service that someone is willing to pay for. Ultimately, this means that waste is any activity that doesn’t change the form, fit, function or value of the good or service. 

Next, we should discuss waste elimination as a philosophy. I contend that total waste elimination is a lofty goal that can never fully be achieved and is somewhat nebulous and idealistic. It may even be irrelevant. However, we should never accept waste that we see and we should be in a constant battle to eliminate it. 

Finally, the relationship between work and waste should be highlighted. Virtually all waste is work, but the opposite is certainly not true. Just because we classify an activity as something that the customer is unwilling to pay for doesn’t mean that it isn’t work. In fact, the very reason we strive to eliminate it is because work is required to perform the activity, but isn’t rewarded by the customer. We must always be mindful of this and be careful how we present our findings as we search for waste. People often take offense when an activity that they exert great amounts of energy to complete, is classified as wasteful. An employee who takes pride in his work will often feel stressed, angry or hurt at such an assessment. Handling these situations with empathy and coaching can make the difference in whether or not someone is willing to help us eliminate wasteful activities or not. After all, they are more than likely tired at the end of their work day, even if the customer is unwilling to pay for their activities. Being sensitive to this and helping employees understand how to eliminate waste without disrespecting their effort will help get everyone on board with our waste elimination efforts and maintain a healthy sense of respect.

This post will be followed by 30 or so more over the next few months which will deep-dive into different forms of waste in the office as well as suggestions on how to remove them.  Each post is meant to teach you how to see that particular form of waste.  We would love to hear examples for each from your environment one as well as what you did about it.



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Categories: Lean | Lean Office | Office Waste | Value

We are Live!

by Darian 22. March 2010 15:23

Ok, so slightly late but we finally caught up to the power of blogging.  We never thought about using this medium before because we weren’t about to employ it as yet another marketing tool.  However, after understanding the potential to use it to educate, express our views, test new and innovative ideas with you all and just have conversations with great people, we said, “Now why didn’t we ever do this before?” 

With that said, we’re incredibly pleased to announce our blog.  It is our avenue to share new research, old ideas that need to be said over and over, and maybe some general frustrations with continuous improvement that hopefully we all share. We will cover traditional topics on Lean and Lean Six Sigma and will focus on new and unique topics like Lean Office, Lean Software Development, Lean IT and general applicability of Lean and Lean Six Sigma thinking in every department from Sales to Finance to HR.

In the end, we, the principles and associates of VRDS, Inc., will share our thoughts, experiences and insights on how to transform organizations to be more agile, respond to market and environmental changes quicker and deliver the highest level of customer satisfaction. 

Our bloggers have decades of industry experience and have seen, heard and battled much in our professional lives.  Thorugh our experiences, we hope you will  learn, grow and interact with us.   Feel free to post examples and pictures on topics that resonate with you or challenge us respectfully on those issues you don’t agree with so we can dialog about them.  Either way, we’d like to hear from you.

The next few posts will be on a 30+-part series on Office Wastes, a multi-part series on Office (dis)Organization, visual management in the Office and much more.  And please, feel free to suggest topics you want to learn about or explore further. 

You can follow VRDSinc on Twitter for tweets about new blogs, subscribe to the RSS feed or simply check back with us every 1 – 2 days for new posts.   Any way you choose to follow, all we ask is that you don’t be a stranger.

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Categories: General | Lean | Lean Office | Lean Six Sigma




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