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12 Wastes of Product & Process Development

by Katrina Appell & John Drogosz
August 2, 2019

12 Wastes of Product & Process Development

by Katrina Appell & John Drogosz
August 2, 2019 | Comments (3)

The wastes found in manufacturing have been well documented over the years. As we move upstream into product development, the environment is clearly different, but waste is unfortunately just as prevalent. It is harder to “see” as it morphs itself into different categories than those found in the factory. Based on the works of Jim Morgan, Jeff Liker, Allen Ward and our own experiences, below are some wastes commonly seen in product and process development.

1. Handoffs

Transferring information or material from one party to another. While most handoffs in product development are done electronically nowadays, a lot of waste can be generated due to misunderstanding the information being transferred and/or waiting for feedback from others.

2. Waiting

Waiting for data, answers, decisions, review events, and capacity (people or machine). This is one of the most common wastes in product development and can account for more than 30% of the project lead times.

3. Overdoing

Effort and expense expended to generate data that is never used. This is similar to over-processing in the factory. We are creating more and more data but is it really (re)usable knowledge that creates value? Status updates and reports are also areas where we tend to overdo.

4. Rework/Redundant Tasks

Redoing the same work over again – fixing an error, multiple reviews of the same information or multiple approvals. Some iterations using point-based development approaches also lead to a lot of rework and lost time. Not getting cross-functional inputs at the right time can also drive re-design/rework.

5. Stop and Go Tasks

Each time a person has to reorient themselves to a task. It requires multiple “setups” causing additional effort and delays. While giving the illusion that we are progressing, some multitasking can drive stop & go and extend lead times.

6. Reinvention Waste

Re-creating or rediscovering knowledge that we already have and can reuse. This also includes knowledge available outside an organization. “Not invented here” can be a driver of reinvention.

7. Unused/Misused Talent

People working on projects and tasks that customers do not want or need. This is one of the worst wastes as not fully utilizing the talent of our most valuable asset – our skilled people can be demoralizing. Nobody wants to work on a product that a customer does not buy! Remember lean is all about enabling people.

8. Transaction Waste

This is the time and effort arranging for work to be done (e.g., contract negotiations, quotations, resource scheduling, financial reporting). Some of these tasks are nonvalue added but required while others are wasteful distractions from our value-added work.

9. High Process and Arrival Variation

Process variation can be caused by everyone doing tasks in their own way or because they have not been fully trained to a standard process. This typically leads to arrival variation as variable task times lead to uncertain delivery of outputs to downstream customers.

10. System Overutilization

Inserting too much work into a system. Once systems reach approximately 80% utilization, small increases in work dramatically increase lead times of all work in a given system. Large batch releases are large contributors to overutilization as they overburden people and increase cycle times. Overutilization can happen at any level – projects, departments, and individuals’ desks.

11. Waste of Wishful Thinking

As first identified by Allen Ward, widely considered a pioneer in the field of lean product and process development (LPPD), this waste can take several forms. Wishful thinking can be seen in making decisions with inadequate knowledge, setting arbitrary timelines, estimating times to complete tasks, and overly optimistic expectations of learning or discovering new knowledge.

12. Unsynchronized Concurrent Tasks

One of the most insidious wastes. It seems like the right thing to do to work concurrently, but unsynchronized concurrency is often the root cause of a great deal of the other wastes mentioned above. More to come on the Dark Side of Concurrent Engineering in an upcoming post.

Maybe you have seen some of the above waste in your processes? With everyone so busy with all the work that needs to be done on a day-to-day basis, we sometimes simply take the above wastes as just being part of the work.  However, the only way to free up your time to create new value is to start seeing and eliminating these wastes. A good way to see and understand the wastes together is through a product development value stream map.

Next Step:

  • Learn more while increasing your professional skills and value by registering for the in-depth workshop with instructors John Drogosz and Katrina Appell, running Sept. 25-26, 2019: Designing the Future: A Lean Product Development Immersive Learning Experience.Since LPPD is an enterprise activity, managers, leaders, designers, product developers, engineers, and continuous improvement agents are encouraged to attend.
The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
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3 Comments | Post a Comment
Isabella Englebach August 05, 2019

Great list!

The waste of making a product that doesn't sell is a waste of talent for sure.  It is also a waste of other resources, and dwarfs all the other wastes in its impact. Sometimes a product doesn't sell because it is truly is a bad idea, but often the failure of a product is due to failure of the product development team to work with people in other functions (for example marketing, or the the complaint department) and with potential customers to determine create customer demand for the product at it's chosen price point. You could say this is the wase of Wishful Thinking, but I have seen so many product development teams get excited over their idea and forget about marketing the product that I would suggest that it deserves its own waste. We really should call this ares of lean "Lean Product, Process, and Market Development." A clean and effective hand-off to the folks who are going to sell the product is even more  important than the hand-off to the folks who will manufacture it. 

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Katrina Appell August 05, 2019
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Isabella - Thank you for your comment! 

You are spot on. I don't know how many times I've said "If you don't understand what the product needs to be then everything you do is waste." That is why when we talk about the LPPD principles we start with deeply understand what your product needs to be. And this list was generated more around the perspective of creating flow and eliminating waste, so we missed on emphasizing that critical point. 

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Sam Doucette August 09, 2019

These 12 wastes sound a lot like the IT acquisition world in the USAF.  Our near-peer adversaries (Russia and China) are rapidly catching up to us in terms of IT innovation, and our IT acquisition systems are trying to stay ahead by adopting machine learning, artificial intelligence, Agile software development, etc.  However, because we live in a government bureaucracy with many review levels and other non-value-added but required wastes, we encounter many of the same issues you point out.  We are less like a factory and more like a product development lab with every passing day.  I will share this with my colleagues.

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