Is Your Organizational Mindset Causing Waste?

Is Your Organizational Mindset Causing Waste?

Waste, or the Japanese word muda is defined as: any activity that does not add value to the customer and is not needed to meet customer requirements.

The acronym DOWNTIME identifies eight wastes that may be present in any process, whether it is manufacturing, service, office, healthcare, finance or IT.  These DOWNTIME wastes are: Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Neglected resources, Transportation, Inventory, Motion, and Extra processing.

The mindset of an organization is the fixed mental attitude about a situation, event or belief.  It may be derived from a corporate culture, value system, experience, or management directive. It is characterized by inflexibility and does not allow for change or new ideas. It is the attitude and culture of people in a company and their resistance to change that is often the greatest barrier to successful Lean and Six Sigma implementations. Here are some examples of how the mindset of an organization contributes to waste in its processes.

Defects. How many times have you heard, “We’ve always done it that way” or “Don’t you think that’s good enough?” Don’t assume someone else will catch the defects and make the corrections before they get to the end user.

Overproduction. Do you operate on the philosophy of ‘Just-in-Case’ and not Just-in-Time? Are all possible product configurations carried in finished goods without regard to demand? Sometimes large batch sizes are produced because management believes setup takes too long, and this leads to overproduction and high inventory costs.

Waiting. Are you waiting for several unnecessary signatures required to process an insurance claim or vendor contract? Does a worker have to track down a supervisor for approval each time before proceeding with the next step? Being overly cautious in policy making can be a huge source of waste.

Neglected resources. Does the company hire outside consultants when the talent is available in-house? Does management balk at using newer software or upgrades? Having a technologically friendly mindset is critical in knowing how to fully and efficiently employ the resources you have under your own roof. Look for talented people with the right mindset to promote and train others.

Transportation. Does management require all work-in-process be moved to a central staging area? Are documents required to be hand-carried to each signee? Again, review policies and their underlying assumptions to identify areas of waste.

Inventory. Is ‘Just-in-Case’ philosophy overriding ‘Just-in-Time’ inventory control thinking? These are common problems throughout many organizations. Make sure that those in charge of inventory are adequately educated for accurate and flexible forecasting to prevent shortages.

Motion. Are employees required to search for a supervisor to sign-off on a job before proceeding to the next step? Does management require employees to attend unnecessary meetings that could be managed through a newsletter or memo? Is mindset preventing the implementation of ergonomic practices?

Extra processing. Is the product shipped with unnecessary cosmetic packaging that is then discarded by the customer? Is the product or service inspected by someone other than the operator? Implement inspection at the source to eliminate the need for final inspection downstream.

The next time you analyze waste in your processes, take a good look at the mindset of your organization when drilling down to the root cause of your inefficiencies.

Gary Wickett is a recognized manufacturing, engineering, and supply chain professional with extensive experience leading Lean transformations.   He is a Lean consultant and educator and serves as an adjunct professor for Villanova University and instructor for APICS. Read more about eliminating waste in “Are You Seeing All the Waste?” – Chapter 14 in Driving Operational Excellence: Simple Lean Six Sigma Secrets to Improve the Bottom Line.


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