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Significance of Waste - Office Improvements


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash


The last of three key differences when transitioning continuous improvement (CI) from a manufacturing environment to the office is the Significance of Waste. While this blog will focus on office waste, I encourage you to read tips about the other two factors, Association to Work and Frequency of Work Units.


In a previous blog, Office Vs. Manufacturing – Waste, I discussed how waste is magnified in an office setting when there are issues with:

  • Communication

  • Alignment

  • Decision Making


I have found that the best way to overcome these issues are with the following approaches:


  1. Partner for an open culture

  2. Audit strategy and deployment

  3. Choose a mix of improvements

  4. Document accountabilities

  5. Map to highlight office waste


Let’s break down each approach for more detail.


Partner for an open culture


If you are seeking more open and honest communication, it is going to take several influential roles to make that happen. Ensure senior leadership is demonstrating the right behavior to model and promote healthy communication. Form partnerships with the Human Resources department and any individuals with roles in internal communications. They can help coach and message information, as well as gather feedback from the workforce when there are challenges to being open and honest. And remember to be a visible role model of vulnerability and learning from failure.

Audit strategy and deployment


When a company has issues with vertical and/or horizontal alignment, a good place to look is the company’s strategy.

  • What are the vision, mission, values, operating system, and key metrics?

  • What is the short- and long-term strategy?

  • Does the workforce know the strategy?

  • How is the strategy deployed?

  • If it is deployed, is there a regular cadence and process for this?

  • How are resources allocated to the strategy and shared across departments?


Choose a mix of improvements


Another way to drive alignment is through a variety of continuous improvements. A strong CI program will include improvement efforts at an individual, team, and organizational level. This mix affords opportunities for both functional and cross-functional alignment, as all participants will align toward common goals.


Document accountabilities


Formally document roles, responsibilities, and decision-making authority at a functional level, as well as a process level. In other words, if an individual is a department leader, that person may have clear decision-making authority for that department. However, in a cross-functional process, that same leader may provide influence but not have authority to make decisions.


Any key decision should have a clear owner. Decisions should be driven down in the organization as much as possible to minimize delays related to approvals. This also provides greater accountability and personal growth at all levels.


Map to highlight office waste


When transitioning from a manufacturing to an office setting, it is important to continue enabling participants to see the waste. To do this requires a different method of mapping. In this example (using a mapping technique I learned from Steve Dickinson at PQS), it is easy to see contributors to communication and decision-making issues.

  • The yellow diamonds indicate a decision or a path that diverges. Often, with work instructions, we document steps assuming everything will go as planned. The reality is that in an office setting, situations that do not follow the anticipated typical path create a great deal of waste. Therefore, it is important to document the process for when situations do not follow the most common path.


  • The green pointed shapes indicate hand-offs. Hand-offs can be opportunities for miscommunication or information getting lost. Mapping participants might view these as opportunities for standardizing communications and/or centralizing conversations for tracking and referring to later.


  • The pink stop sign shapes indicate pauses in the process. It is a good practice to capture the range of time for these waits. The actual times can be validated later. However, totaling the min/max wait times during a mapping event can open participants’ eyes as to how long a customer may be waiting for things like approvals or missing information throughout the process. If the process has a goal of minimizing time, this is a great place to begin looking for opportunities to reduce waste.


Do you have best practices to share for how to reduce waste in the office? Would you like more tips for how to see and address waste in your own organization? Contact Us to continue the conversation.


#leadershipconsulting, #businesscoach, #lean, #continuousimprovement, #femaleentrepreneurs, #sixsigma, #businessgrowth, #leanoffice #officewaste


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