Attacking Waste in Knowledge Work

There are 7 types of waste, according to Taiichi Ohno. Attacking these 7 wastes is what makes a company Lean and able to create more value faster. This is also true in the office. Most waste in the factory is easy to spot. Things such as inventory, motion, and defects are visible. Waste can be harder to spot in the office environment, be it engineering, purchasing, or administrative functions. The toughest of the wastes to identify is the waste of processing, where the process itself is waste. So processing is the toughest waste to see, and seeing waste in information flow is harder than in production. This must mean that processing must be nearly impossible to find in the office? Actually, the opposite is true. Just ask the question, “What would happen if we stopped doing X?” with X being the particular engineering, administrative, or knowledge work process. If the answer is “nothing” then you have found an example of waste of processing. The customer of that process does not value that step, and it is therefore waste and should be removed. You have just done Office Kaizen. Try this out! It is more common than you may think.