It has been said that nothing kills creativity more than tradition. We do things because we’ve always done them. In the office we often complete processes in the same way they’ve always been done without thinking about their effectiveness. This often results in Over Processing, a common yet hard to identify, waste. What is often needed, but not always welcomed, is a fresh set of eyes…someone who has never seen a particular process before who can spot ways to improve a way of doing things.
Although Lean principles began on the manufacturing floor and were discovered by Toyota, they are being applied more and more in non-manufacturing settings. Toyota identified seven areas of waste that affect a company’s ability to deliver products and services at the lowest possible cost to the customer. In review they are:
- Over Production
- Over Processing
Over processing is probably the waste that most people struggle with fully understanding and identifying in their work environments. In a nutshell, over processing is doing something the customer does not require. And when you think “customer” it isn’t always the end user of your company’s product or service. Your customer might be someone in your department who has asked you to create a spreadsheet or your boss who has asked for a presentation outlining the benefits of a new software program.
In an office setting the possibilities for spotting over processing are endless. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, sometimes we’re over processing because we’re stuck doing things a certain way over and over. To help you spot where you might be guilty of doing more than is required, here are a few examples to get you started:
- Keeping a paper calendar in addition to using Outlook or Lotus Notes calendar
- Unnecessary signatures required in an approval process
- Re-reading emails in your Inbox because you can’t recall from the subject line what they pertain to
- Typing a lengthy email only to pick up the phone and explain it voice-to-voice
- Doing more than necessary to get the job done
- Printing a 30-page budget report when only the Summary sheet will be used
- Providing a 50 page 3-ring binder to project team members when contents will be accessed online
- Writing down phone information instead of keying directly into computer
- Manually typing a new contact’s information in Outlook or Lotus Notes when using the “drag and drop” feature will do it automatically
- Relying on inspections, rather than designing the process to eliminate errors
- Re-entering data into multiple information systems
- Making extra copies of a document “just in case” someone needs one
- Generating unused reports
- Expediting snail mail when it isn’t necessary
As you study your own processes don’t be afraid to invite an outsider to review things with you. Sometimes we’ve become so accustomed to what’s right in front of us that we can’t see a glaring possibility staring right back at us.