We know that the 7 Wastes of Lean are not equal but they also build off of each other. For example, while overproduction might be present in a process, there is most likely overprocessing also as a result. This is also true for information, as the following story illustrates.
In the most recent Fortune magazine, we learn of General Motors GM and their efforts to turn the company around and to fix what it calls the “frozen middle”, or the layer after layer of middle management bureaucracy.
The following story is helpful in illustrating wastes that lasted a long time, and nobody actually realized it. Steve Girsky, is a new GM executive described in the story and he describes information overload as a type of waste:
Pre-bankruptcy, they (GM) used to collect data from automotive markets around the world, analyze it, and assemble it into large powerpoint decks that circulated every month to 150 recipients. Suspecting that nobody read them, Girsky ordered the report suspended for one month. When only a handful of complaints came in, Girsky discontinued the report.
While the report above might have taken a lot of time to produce, resources used and wasted, there is something even more insiduous: this example is emblematic of systemic waste – not point-waste, but waste that is evident and supported by an organizational system and infrastructure.
In a Box
Systemic Wastes are especially difficult to see and to do something about because they are, by nature, part of an organizational structure that is often taken for granted. Akin to being inside a box, but not knowing that one is in a box, Systemic Wastes makes it very difficult for one to see that there is waste present.
What it took, in the case of GM, are fresh eyes and an outsider’s perspective.