The 8th Waste…is a Waste

Waste is a common term used in lean.  Taiichi Ohno categorized waste he saw in manufacturing into seven categories.

  1. Transportation – The movement of goods
  2. Inventory – The storage of goods
  3. Motion – Any motion that is not adding value to the product, such as walking, reaching, etc…
  4. Waiting – Machine or person or product not having value added to it while other products are having value added to it
  5. Overproduction – Making the product in quantities more than the customer wanted or before the customer wanted it
  6. Overprocessing – Adding more to a product than a customer values or extra steps that are not necessary to create the value
  7. Defects – Anything not done right the first time

These types of waste have been proven to be in the office, healthcare, distribution, or any environment.

I’m not a history major so I don’t who or when, but an 8th waste was added.

The waste of human Intellect.

I have worked at companies that use 7 and companies that use 8 types of waste.  My opinion, the 8th waste is a waste!

Here’s why I think that way.  If you study lean you will see that respect for people is a very big tenant.  If you are showing respect for people then you are engaging the work force.  The purpose of this engagement is tapping into the employees intellect in order to use it to benefit the company through improvement.

In order to engage the employees most companies train them on the types of waste.  That way they can use their intellect to see the waste in their work environment.  So how do you teach seeing wasted intellect?  You can go out and see the other seven types of waste during a waste walk.  Do you walk up to someone and say, “You aren’t giving ideas.  Wasted Intellect!  I found it!”? You don’t see intellect like you see the other seven types of waste.

Wasted intellect is implied in the other wastes.  If you are using employees to find and eliminate waste then you are not wasting their intellect.  If you are not using them to find and eliminate waste then you are wasting their intellect.

I have heard the opinion that by explicitly stating waste of intellect it brings into the forefront employee engagement.  Good opinion.  I just don’t buy it though.  Those same people are stressing employee engagement at the same time, so why not just do it there.

I am in agreement that employees need to be engaged and the company should be using their knowledge and intellect to help improve the business.  I just don’t think it needs to be called an 8th waste.


Posted on February 14, 2011, in Engagment, Flip The Thinking, Waste and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I would tend to agree. How do you measure wasted intellect? If someone is involved in a process then the important thing is whether they are performing their task in an efficient, lean manner. How clever they are is not an issue. Why would you identify this as a waste anyway? Having done so, would you redeploy that person to a more challenging role or impose a requirement on them to have more ideas? There is a need to involve and engage employees but a truly lean operation will do this. Respecting the front line, challenge the status quo and support continuous improvement all require employee engagement to succeed. EIghth waste strikes me as someone’s attempt to put their own mark on the lean toolbox.

  2. I agree. This 8th waste is symptom of a ‘mediocre culture’. What I mean by that is cultures that accept the status quo, don’t consider their company as having any waste and no sense of responsibility around challenging the status quo.

    Without employee engagement, it’s un-likely there is a strong enough culture to constantly improve. There are much more efficient ways of measuring employee engagement such as the tried and true ’12 questions’

    If your engagement is low, you’re a long ways away from understanding Lean in the first place.

  3. Interesting point. In my mind, I open up the definition of this to “unused human talent,” which to me is more broad. Unused human talent can be things like a certain person doing the wrong work, loss of talent because of a work injury, or not asking the people who do the work how to improve the process. You do make a decent argument for not including it, though. I have always included it just because I do see a little discernment.

  4. I agree (as I think you know). Sure, it is a waste. But I don’t think it fits with the 7 types of waste. People should be using the 7 types of waste to find specific occurrences of waste and work towards eliminating them. They should be doing waste walks. It should be part of their problem solving and idea generation. But you can’t see the waste of human potential in an acute, observable, and measurable way. Yes, it exists. It should be worked on daily, but it’s a broad statement, not an acute waste.

    As far as it’s source, although other people have claimed credit for it, it is from Kiyoshi Suzaki. Check out The New Manufacturing Challenge, published in 1987. We used to use this book so much, we just called it “the red book.” Suzaki really helped surface the people side of lean; it just took 20 or more years for others to figure that out. Here’s a link:

  5. You can waste people and their intellect by not realizing their potential and giving them the right tasks or responsibilities. You are right, its not possible to quantify but the potential is of huge proportions. Take for example a girl employed right after college but is not able to further her education due to an early marriage and its complications. She gets overlooked in the work place for promotion, due to lack of credentials yet she still carries the potential inside her. One day she gets noticed by a new manager who offers her a challenge which she performs beyond her manager’s expectations. She goes on to prove her critics wrong, by forming her own company and now she s doing international trade worth millions of shillings all to her name. What if this girl’s potential had been realised and tapped into, she probably would have brought the millions/billions to her employer.There is an 8th waste and it cannot be ignored.

  6. In my opinion waste of talent (in a broad sense) certainly has a major bottom line impact and therefore should be addressed.
    Yet knowledge, innovation, competence etc are intangible assets and hard to quantify in monetary units.
    In my experience the issue is, that easily quantifiable improvements are preferred over hard-to-measure, uncertain improvements. It is easy to report “i saved 20.000 on the education budget”, while it is very difficult to proof, that reduced competence/effectiveness led to a net loss of 100.000.
    Too many factors influence the outcome of knowledge driven projects. I am not aware of a method, that is able to mathematically proof “knowledge worker education” as a viable investment.
    Many managers seem to apply: “If i cannot measure the value, then it has zero value.”

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