top of page
  • Writer's pictureStephanie Hill

Significance of Waste - Office Vs. Manufacturing

Updated: Jan 16, 2021

In Part One of this blog series, I shared the importance of understanding and adapting to three key factors that impact results when doing continuous improvement (CI) in an office vs. manufacturing environment.

1. Association to Work

2. Frequency of Work Units

3. Significance of Waste

We have already discussed “Association to Work” and “Frequency of Work Units.” So, this week, we will dive into “Significance of Waste.” Remember that the first three blog posts will describe each factor, while the fourth will provide tips for adapting your CI approach.

I was raised in the Lean world to believe that inventory was the greatest of all waste evils. While in manufacturing, I wholeheartedly agreed. Inventory can lead to excess cost through added floor space, defects, delays, scrap, inflexibility, etc.

In the office, inventory often takes the shape of backlog. When that backlog represents a customer waiting for something urgent, this waste is very problematic.

Yet, my experience over the past 20 years has shown me that office waste often stems from a lack of clarity related to: communication, alignment, and decision-making.


When we see communication issues, we often discover similar actions being done by multiple people, activities being missed, key customer needs being overlooked, and general resentment. Poor communication not only costs a company profit, it can degrade the company’s culture.


Alignment indicates that all members of an organization are moving efficiently toward the same direction. The key word, “efficiently,” relies upon both vertical and horizontal alignment.

Vertical alignment suggests that the company has a clear and understood vision, mission, values, management system, and high-level metrics. This strategic direction cascades vertically to every level of the company and is visible through people’s behaviors and goals.

Horizontal alignment means that even across departments, it is clear how they work together with synergy to achieve common goals. If horizontal alignment is lacking, the organization may work in silos, fighting for company resources and striving toward opposing goals.

When either vertical or horizontal alignment is lacking, achieving company-wide goals is not only difficult, it is extremely expensive.


Some companies avoid making and sharing key decisions, because of the culture. In other words, “wrong” decisions may be severely punished. Yet more often, individuals make vague, delayed, or no decision at all due to a lack of role and expectation clarity.

I have mapped countless processes that include a lengthy, “Wait for decision,” step. This often translates into employee frustration and delays for customers. And we all know that customer delays can translate into lost profits.

A company that does not look at clarity issues tied to communication, alignment, and decision-making will miss out on a major opportunity to grow profits. I will share in the fourth blog post some tips on how to overcome this significant waste found in nearly every office environment.

In the meantime, please Contact Us at to share your story. Or let us know if you would like additional help overcoming these challenges in your organization.

23 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page