8 Wastes

The Tool and Why It’s Valuable

Waste can be characterized as any activity that consumes resources but does not create value for the customer. The main goal of Lean is to eliminate waste.

There are eight specific wastes classified in Lean and the first letter of each form the memory aid “WASTEFUL.”

Applying the concept of waste identification and elimination should be a constant activity. It should become a way of thinking for all members of a Lean organization. This may be challenging at first, as you may not recognize waste in existing processes because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Over time, though, all employees will be able to quickly and accurately identify waste within a process.

How to Apply It

  1. Take a “waste walk.” Tour the workplace and follow the process steps, asking yourself and your team (respectfully!) at each step:
    • Is this step necessary to achieve the process goal?
    • Does the person completing this step have to wait for something or someone to begin their work?
    • Do you store any partial or completed products (e.g., applications)?
    • What errors are typically found? What is the source?
    • Does any information get entered multiple times?
    • Can you see any of the other 8 wastes in this process?
  2. Document your findings and share with others.

Use the Simple SOLVE model or Structured SOLVE model to eliminate the waste and measure your improvements.

Pearls and Pitfalls
  • Overcoming the “we’ve always done it this way” can be a challenge.
  • There is waste in every organization and ignoring waste is a disservice to the employees who work there, your customers, and the taxpayers.

Key Tips

  • Talking about process waste helps take focus off of individuals, making it clear that the process contains waste and that removing it will set people up for success.
  • Look for these 8 wastes in the process.
  • Listen for the types of comments below as you engage your co-workers.
8 wastes
What you might observe:
What you might hear:
When the process stops
“I know it’s urgent, but I’m waiting on…”
Approvals or inspections that don’t improve the product or service
“We have checkers checking the checkers.”
Handoffs between people and organizations
“I don’t know how the whole process works, only my piece.”
Any movement of paper or people (motion)
“I spend a lot of my time walking just to get my job done.”
Things not done right the first time; requires rework
“I find mistakes all the time, and sometimes our customers do.”
Failure to Prioritize
Working in crisis mode because “everything is important”
“It’s hard to know what needs to be done first.”
Underutilized Talents
Not using all of an employee’s skills
“We’ve always done it this way, but we could find a better way.”
Lack of Standards
The absence of standard methods and targets
“Everyone does it differently so it’s hard to improve.”

*Prioritizing is figuring out what is most important to you and doing things in that order, whereas procrastination is avoiding something that needs to be done.