Home > The Lean Post> Advice from the Gemba: The Most Frustrating Types of Waste (and How to Eliminate Them!) II

Advice from the Gemba: The Most Frustrating Types of Waste (and How to Eliminate Them!) II

by Rick Guba & Peg Pennington
October 17, 2017

Advice from the Gemba: The Most Frustrating Types of Waste (and How to Eliminate Them!) II

by Rick Guba & Peg Pennington
October 17, 2017 | Comments (2)

If you've ever lost sleep over a particularly frustrating source of waste in your organization, you're not alone. Some forms of waste are easier to eliminate -- others are so difficult that they start to blur the line between "challenging" and "enraging." Today we feature two experienced lean educators with the most frustrating types of waste they've encountered, plus their favorite tips for eliminating them.

Peg Pennington, Executive Director, Center for Operational Excellence at The Ohio State University

The most frustrating form of waste to find and eliminate is rooted in what I’ll call “complexity creep.” This occurs when mid-level managers make decisions to take on new activities, customers or projects that ultimately over-burden front-line employees with unnecessary – and strategically misaligned – complexity. These managers might have the best intentions to expand the business or chase a new opportunity, but their ad hoc decisions don’t receive the scrutiny that should be given for a new business direction.

When these decisions move downstream to the operator, it’s common to see the operator become overburdened, and that can lead to a number of problems: long lead times, quality misses and external failures, to name just a few. Managers at this point commonly look to improve quality at the source, but they should be looking in a mirror, asking, “Should we be doing this activity at all?”

Reducing complexity creep starts by working to better understand the customer and value stream delivering the products and services. This allows for daily sorting — Is this “in” or “out?” — to stay seamlessly aligned with the strategy. Before thinking about how to execute on a new project or customer, managers should step back and ask a more fundamental question: "Why?"

Rick Guba, Executive in Residence, Management Sciences Department at The Ohio State University

The most frustrating form or waste is the waste of human potential. I see organizations focus on teaching tools and miss the focus of capturing people’s hearts and minds. This lack of people focus is a root cause of why improvements don’t sustain and why organizations get locked into “events” of improvement instead of a “culture” of continual iterative improvements.

The change in my mind is to create an army focused on “coaching,” not managing. The ideal coach is one that pulls out of each one of us more than we would have achieved on our own. The coach does not run the plays for us but rather arms us with skills, behaviors and passion to go as a team together to the impossible goal.

You can learn more from these distinguished OSU faculty at LEI's upcoming OSU workshops. Peg Pennington will teach "Root Cause Analysis" and Rick Guba will teach "Lean Office: Making the Invisible Visible." More information is available on our workshop calendar.

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The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
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Prateek Vasisht October 25, 2017

The most frustrating waste I've seen is paradoxically, over analysis, especially when analysis does not tie to delivery. LEAN is very particular about robust analysis but when that analysis is not matched by delivery, then the not only effort but best effort is wasted. 

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