Dealing with waste properly is a key aspect of any lean plan, and it’s important that your organization has strong rules in place for taking care of that. At the same time though, it’s just as important to always know that the definitions of waste you’re working with are up-to-date and aligned with your current business goals.
It’s not rare for a company to make decisions based on outdated definitions of waste for a period of time, and even short bursts of this problematic behavior can have long-lasting repercussions in the way the business operates as a whole. These issues can become even more pronounced if your definitions of waste are particularly outdated with regards to what the company is currently doing, and if you don’t have a standardized procedure in place for evaluating the current practices of the company, you’re just asking for trouble.
Continuous Evaluation Is Key
Ideally, your company will have a regular analysis process in place that evaluates every aspect of the business. This should include an in-depth look at what you currently consider waste and wasteful behavior, and as long as you have a good understanding of what the company’s actual goals are, it shouldn’t be too difficult to come up with some good examples of behaviors to avoid.
Once you’ve figured out the critical aspects of your business where waste is to be avoided once, it’s relatively easy to adapt the thought process to a more continuous mode of evaluation, one that examines how the company has moved forward since the last time it was evaluated, and what differences there are (if any) in the importance of the various resources it relies on.
Getting Input from All Levels
A common mistake that can lead to an improper view on waste is to only consider feedback from the higher levels of the organization. While it’s natural to put more trust and weight in the words of the more experienced leaders, it’s also important to give other employees a platform to express themselves, especially if they have any concerns about the way the company is utilizing its resources at present.
After all, it’s often those low-level employees that use those resources first-hand, and they might have a few insights that you would never expect from someone who’s only looking at the big picture. For that reason, it’s also a good idea to have a more hands-on approach with the lower levels of the company’s infrastructure, no matter where you are in the hierarchy yourself – but that’s a separate issue.
Don’t Forget the Past
Of course, you shouldn’t just completely throw out your definition of waste on a monthly basis (or however often you perform those evaluations), and you should always keep the previous results you’ve seen in consideration. This might sound trivial – and even a bit of a pointless piece of advice – but there are ways to get fooled into this without even realizing it depending on the way your analysis process works.
Even if your current analysis doesn’t account for that though, don’t worry – it shouldn’t be too difficult to modify the process to make it more suitable, and depending on the complexity of your organization, you may be able to get some additional input from other departments that have already gone through a similar problem and could share some tips.
Ideally, you’ll also be aligning your views on waste with those of the industry in which you operate, and you should similarly share any unusual findings you might make in your own research too. There is a lot you can learn from the way others in your sector are addressing their own waste issues, and it’s always worth taking a look around to see what the current trends are.
Never lose sight of what defines waste in the context of your own operations, and make sure that the whole company is constantly aligned towards the same goal with regards to how you’re eliminating waste and dealing with productivity issues. Keeping your waste model up-to-date will allow you to make sound and informed decisions at any step of your regular processes.