I’m going to show you some numbers. And you’re going to want to see them sitting down. No, really. They’re going to be hard to believe. You’re going to see how small wastes get BIG very quickly.

Specifically, I’m going to show you how minutes of wasted time turns into dozens, even hundreds, of employees not adding value, essentially NOT working. Wonder why you’re all so busy but never make any real progress? This could be one answer.

But, first, let me ask you a question. How much time, on average, do you think people waste a day at work?

When I say waste, I don’t mean people fooling around, i.e., not working. It’s them trying to work but problems and inefficiencies getting in the way of accomplishing it. For example, fixing other people’s mistakes, searching for information or rebooting a computer because it froze (again!).

Think about how much time you’re forced to waste every day. Write that number down.

Waste Starts Small

Okay, here come the numbers; don’t freak out. I’ll walk you through it.

Let’s take a company with 1,000 employees (that’s the number in the white box at top) and assume employees work 230 days a year (that’s the number below 1,000). That’s the days in a year minus weekends, federal holidays and four weeks of PTO.

In the lower half, the first column at left is the time, in minutes, that an individual employee is forced to waste every day trying to get work done. You can enter and compare up to four values. In this case, I entered 5 minuteS a day, 15 minutes a day, 30 minutes a day and 60 minutes a day.

Minutes Become Hours

The next column calculates the total HOURs those minutes grow to for the entire organization meaning all 1,000 employees in this case. Five minute of daily waste per person equals 19,167 HOURS a year for the entire organization. 60 minutes or one hour of daily waste per person equals 230,000 HOURS of waste.

The third column translates those wasted hours into full-time equivalent employees who work 8 hours a day. In this case, 57,500 hours equates to 31 full-time employees. And 230,000 hours equates to 125 employees. So, if everyone is being forced to waste 60 minutes a day, it’s like 125 not getting ANY work done at all. That’s mindblowing!

Increase Headcount? LMAO!

If you walked into your company president’s office with a personal req to increase headcount by 125 people, what are the chances they’d agree and sign it? My guess is infinitesimal. NEVEN happen. They would require insurmountable justification.

But, how easy is it at your company to make a work process more complex and burdensome? My guess is it’s VERY easy. Add another reviewer or approval signature to a requisition. Move a printer across the hallway. Create a new form to fill out. Start another meeting.

No big deal, right? WRONG! Add five minutes of waste to everyone’s day and it’s like you laid off 10 people.

Estimate Your Company’s Waste

I use this calculator to kick off my 12 Weeks to Lean Practice program with company leadership and the output always generates A LOT of discussion. These numbers start leaders building commitment to improving work by eliminating wasteful activities.

How much waste did you estimate for your company? More than one hour? If you wrote down hours, then multiply by 60 to get minutes. Download my Lean Waste Calculator, input your numbers and estimate the impact. Believe me, it’s going to be much bigger than you ever imagined. Ask your work colleagues how much time they waste in a typical day, enter it in the spreadsheet and see the impact.

So, now what? There are three common responses to this information, one of which is completely wrong. Stay tuned and next week find out more.

Let’s Ride!

Todd Hudson, Head Maverick