A big part of Lean is observing the work that people do and breaking it down into three categories:
- value added work,
- non-value added work
- necessary non-value added work
The remainder and bulk of the time, not spent on value added activity is waste which can be broken down into two groups; necessary non-value added and pure waste. In a Lean environment teams work daily to eliminate the waste. Necessary non-value added includes activities driven by regulation or legal obligations. For these kinds of activities, team still must work to reduce the waste in them although the activity itself can never be eliminated.
It’s often a shock to people when they learn that 80% of their work is non-value added. Many times they assume we are saying they are non-value added and react accordingly often with anger and indignation. On the contrary, we aren’t saying the people are non-value added, we are saying much of the work they do is non-value added. The people themselves are still valuable team members. We need to separate the people from the work they do. While this sounds easy, many times it’s a difficult concept to explain to people.
When this happens, I always fall back on the pillars of Lean and talk about how Lean is built on Respect for Humanity. Lean is very respectful of people and so sees it as dis-respectful to ask people to do work that is full of waste.
At this point in time, people usually become engaged in the improvement activity to drive waste out. Understanding the foundations of value & waste as well as Respect for Humanity are key concepts to getting team members to engage and drive improvement.