top of page
  • DrCelia

LEAN: Is Leadership Really A Waste? by Pete Szelwach

“The greatest waste in America is failure to use the ability of people.”  -W. Edwards Deming

Can leadership really be a source of waste in an organization? Depending on who you ask, you might be surprised to discover that the core seven wastes of LEAN (aka Muda) have broadened quite a bit over the years and now include Leadership! Leaders set the tone and direction. Ineffective/inadequate leadership, direction and support hinder organizational performance, alignment, and long-term survival not to mention impact on talent retention, morale, and innovation. So, YES, ineffective leadership can drive waste in the organization.

The purpose of this article is not to bash leadership, debate the foundations of LEAN, or make you a hard core LEAN/6-Sigma expert (I’m not either). The purpose is to expand your thinking about WASTE in your organization, regardless of industry, and provide some practical tips and techniques which you can apply now to identify and reduce it!

Waste is defined as anything which does not add value (non-value-added or NVA) to the end customer/consumer. I tell clients all the time that eliminating waste is the easiest profit you’ll ever earn because the dollars flow right to the bottom line. Here are the types of waste (TIMWOOD++) followed by some tools to identify it in your organization.

Process/System Related Waste

People Related Waste

!       Transportation – Unnecessary movement of materials/goods

!       Inventory – Storing too much stuff

      Motion – Unnecessary movement of equipment, people and machinery

!       Waiting – Idle, unproductive time or delays

!       Overproduction – Producing too much stuff

!       Overprocessing – Unnecessary work/steps/rework

      Defects – Scrap/yield, errors, and poor quality

!       Space - Inefficient use of physical space, facilities, or layouts

!       Energy - Excessive consumption of resources such as electricity, water, or fuel; sustainability


!       Leadership - Ineffective/inadequate leadership, direction, or support which hinders organizational performance, alignment, and longevity; lack of laser focus on waste!

!       Talent – Unrealized human potential/skills; loss of talent due to retirements or voluntary turnover

!       Knowledge - Failure to capture, share, or utilize organizational knowledge and expertise (aka the “skills gap”)

!       Creativity – Lacking a culture of innovation, creativity, and continuous improvement

!       Morale - Low job satisfaction and engagement leading to decreased productivity, increased turnover, and quality defects

How can you identify Process/System Related Waste?


How can you identify People Related Waste?


  • Ask WHY! – Question why your process is this way; include internal/external resources – NO bias

  • Process Mapping (Value Stream Map) – visual representation of your process; engage people familiar with the process; focus on inputs/outputs; identify value-added vs. non-value-added steps for the customer (internal/external)

  • Excel analysis – Basic number crunching and charts go a LONG way toward understanding and identifying $ goals; focus on the top 3-5 big hitters (ideally high value, low complexity); Excel pivot tables are a lifesaver with big data sets.

  • Think Zero Loss! – What are you doing now vs. what does zero waste (100% value-added world class) look like? Go after the gap! Watch for the next article on Zero Based Loss Analysis in March!

  • Organizational Climate Assessment (Quantitative) – tons of options off the shelf; keep them short; MUST be confidential input to get the truth

  • Interviews and/or Focus Groups (Qualitative) – small group feedback/discussion; MUST have a trustworthy and skilled facilitator leading focus groups; MUST keep confidential

  • Leadership Assessments (Quantitative and Qualitative) – many options off the shelf, some at no cost; MUST be confidential input; confidential, skilled coach review w/ client is desirable

  • 3rd Party Observations (Quantitative and Qualitative) – “problems can’t be solved by the same awareness that created them” – sometimes those who know least see the most so don't be afraid to involve outsiders who know little; skilled observer(s) desirable


Hopefully this article has provided you with a basic understanding of the types of waste which exist in most organizations along with some tools you can use to identify challenges and improve results. A few points to remember:

  • Keep It Simple – Identifying and eliminating waste does not require massive investment or overly sophisticated tools. It's better to apply fewer tools deeply than overwhelm your team. We’ve personally applied simple tools like those above in small and Fortune 50 organizations to achieve strong double digit improvements in morale and the bottom line. The name of the game is return on investment…spending thousands to save millions, not the other way around!

  • Take Decisive Action – Once you identify and prioritize 3-5 high value opportunities, aggressively mobilize the team toward actions and solutions. Team/project facilitation skills, action planning (PDCA for example), and a systematic review process (daily management) up/down the organization are required discipline to keep initiatives on track. Inaction, waffling or lack of resources promotes “flavor of the month” skepticism regarding commitment [of senior management].

  • It’s All About Results – What gets measured gets done! Set realistic improvement targets and deadlines to achieve progress then hold yourselves accountable to deliver results. Leaders must determine “how far, how fast” given resources and complexity. Celebrate successes often to keep the team engaged – have fun!  

If you like what you’ve read and want more assistance, please contact Pete at (828) 443-9977 or so we can schedule a free, no obligation consultation to discuss how PCS2 Consulting can help your organization SOAR to world class results. You can also reach out via our contact page. Remember, we take a very practical, cost-effective approach and tailor solutions to fit the needs of our clients.  We recommend practical tools and techniques that we have personally used in a variety of organizations, large and small, to move the needle, saving documented $ millions! Get started now driving waste out of your organization!

40 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page