Organisational Waste is not just a load of rubbish

What if you could cull out all the small inefficient and non-productive processes from your organisation? How much would it save you in wasted time and effort? How much more would you benefit from cleaning up the wasteful processes of the service organisations you deal with?

The pile of waste items in this picture are headed for recycling, because once they stop being useful as they were originally intended,Shedfull
they become just annoying encumbrances about the home. Many organisational processes are just like that, except they can not be as easily dispatched. It is not inconceivable to see each one of the articles in the recycling pile as representing an annoying unproductive process you, your neighbours and associates might encounter in dealing with service organisations or government departments over the course of a year.

  • Counter staff who don’t know the product well enough to explain it.
  • Call centre procedures that make calls much longer than they need to be.
  • Complex ordering or approval procedures that take forever.
  • Matters that need to be referred to a supervisor who “isn’t here just now”.
  • Having to complain because your problem wasn’t fixed the first time.

They sure mount up over time, don’t they?

Organisational processes that waste time and money.

When the “lean manufacturing” principal was first developed to find better ways towards improving productivity in the Toyota Production System, it spawned a wide family of “lean” thinking about what makes waste in any organisation. Few service organisations have yet caught up with this approach. With both private and public sector organisations searching for economies and
cost reductions there is real danger that the attraction of so-called quick fixes will outweigh the more constructive approach to fixing the fundamentals of eliminating waste.

Organisational waste in its broadest definition includes:

WAITING TIME – otherwise known as delay. This is caused by processes that require multiple inputs or referral to various locations or that are insufficiently resourced such that they create backlogs and queues.

OVERPROCESSING – typically this consumes time and resources because somewhere management has decided that extra procedures are required to control, assure or counter check the work of others. It often involves multiple levels of hierarchical approval. Also known as over-servicing or over specifying quality well above the fit for purpose requirement, it provides fertile ground for waste to thrive. In some service organisations this involves processes known as peer review which although aimed at quality assurance can generate its own stream of productivity waste.

DUPLICATION – related to over-processing this is exemplified where more than one Regulator must be satisfied to obtain approval for a
business to undertake some governable activity. The absence of a one-stop shop for many business functions interfacing with government creates significant inefficiencies and diseconomies for private sector organisations.

ERRORS and DEFECTS – closely related to the manufacturing context of lean thinking is the issue in service organisations of the waste and rework generated by the need to correct errors and remediate defects. Lack of training, poor quality control, ineffective procedures and organisational design all contribute.

“Razor Gangs” target programs rather than processes.

At both state and federal levels of government in Australia “Razor Gangs” have been appointed to seek out and eliminate waste and cut costs. Unfortunately the first action is usually to target staff redundancies because labour costs are inevitably a significant part of the public budget. What is often overlooked, because it is more subtle, is the multitude of inefficiencies and non-productive processes which are left behind to continue to impede effectiveness of service delivery and continue to waste time and money.

Consider just some of the productivity impediments that were identified in the “lean” philosophy and what part addressing them might play in revitalising service organisations, including and perhaps especially government organisations – better processes and decision making to improve turn-around times, elimination of over complex and unnecessary procedural requirements, converging jurisdictions or areas of responsibility to simplify communication and concentrating on “getting it right the first time”.

Identifying organisational waste is not rocket science.

Every one of these areas and more create circumstances which could reduce wasted effort, avoidable cost, lost production time and opportunity cost. In the current economic context where organisations are striving to reduce costs, hidden wastage in organisational processes is surely a prime target for attention. It does not take a detailed time and motion study to uncover these opportunities for improvement. All it takes is a willingness to think clearly about what the organisation is doing and how current practices might be paperbalesimproved to avoid wasting resources, both for the organisation and its customers.

Unfortunately Australian consumers are not known for providing effective feedback on poor service delivery. We tend to prefer to complain to our friends and neighbours around the barbecue rather than engage with the service provider – often however because the quality of the Provider’s complaint system is worse than the orginal service.

Imagine if you could package up each of the articles of waste that emerge from poor processes, complex procedures and unproductive rules that you encounter in the service organisations you deal with, so that they could be moved out and disposed of, giving your organisation more capacity in pursuing its own business.

How big a bale would you need?

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