In an earlier post, Small Wastes Get Big Quickly, my Lean Waste Calculator showed you how the minutes that employees are forced to waste to accomplish work quickly turn into thousands of hours for the organization as a whole. These equate to full-time employees NOT adding value and the numbers get mindblowingly big.

What was the impact of the number you estimated for your company? What was the reaction of people you shared this with?  I’d love to know. Email me at

So, you now know there’s a lot of wasted time and people in your organization. What happens next? Companies follow one of three paths.

Path 1: Cajole and Admonish

Execs and middle managers tell people to be more efficient, use their time wisely and not waste resources. This message might come through an email or be one topic at a departmental or all-company meeting.

This path is completely ineffective and, frankly, pisses people off. They know they can’t do much to improve efficiency just by trying. They don’t control the business processes and resources. They can’t make the changes needed to eliminate waste.

After the email or meeting, the topic never comes up again. This path is seen as (more) proof that management doesn’t know what’s really going on and isn’t serious about improvement.

Path 2: Layoffs and…What?

Some executives see these numbers as a rationale for layoffs. Instead of cutting waste, they cut people. They think with fewer resources work processes will naturally become more efficient. LOL! In your dreams!

The remaining people still have to deliver products and services to customers on-time using the same wasteful processes as before, but now with fewer resources. They don’t have time to learn new problem-solving skills let alone stop and actually make improvements. They’re staying evenings and coming in on weekends just to keep up.

This path results in more mistakes, thus even more waste, and lower morale.

Path 3: Systematically Eliminate Waste

Smart execs see these numbers as a challenge to work on every day. They create an environment and culture where employees can systematically reduce waste using Lean thinking and methods. People doing the work know what drives them crazy and wastes their time. They’re thrilled to get involved and make improvements!

Just like with waste, small improvements get BIG quickly. Saving everybody 15 minutes a day is the equivalent of getting 31 employees back working productively. WOW! With these additional hours and heads, organizations make even more improvements and create additional customer value. It’s the start of a ‘virtuous cycle’ of improvement.

In addition, smart managers make it incredibly difficult to change processes to be more complex and burdensome. The hurdles to do this should be higher than hiring additional people. Remember, adding five minutes of waste to everyone’s day is like laying off 10 people. No one can afford that today. Drive business processes to be simple and visual.

Let’s Ride!

Todd Hudson, Head Maverick