The 8 Forms of Lean Waste, Applied to Business: Waiting

Four businesspeople waiting to get their work done

The lean waste "Waiting" is a commonly-seen problem in corporate environments.                                                                                       

Carroll Elger|
November 30, 2018

In manufacturing, “lean manufacturing” or simply “lean” has become a dominant management philosophy, deciding much of how the manufacturing component of the supply chain is handled to maximize efficiency of resources. Lean focuses on minimizing waste by identifying activities that add value and separating them from those that don’t, emphasizing the elimination of those that don’t.

Due to lean’s success in the manufacturing industry, managers in other industries began to adapt lean to their work, including business managers. Lean management has become a staple of some contemporary offices, modified to fit the white-collar workplace.


A key tenet of lean is the understanding of the “8 Forms of Waste”. Waste, in this context, is defined by as, “any step or action in a process that is not required to complete a process (called “Non Value-Adding”) successfully.”


Ideawake has found that our clients often set innovation challenges for their stakeholders that involve trying to reduce one or more forms of waste. We believe this is an excellent goal to have when using Ideawake so we’re producing this series of posts covering each individual waste and how Ideawake’s innovation management software could potentially be used to address them, particularly in the traditional office business space. The 8 types of waste are as follows:


  1. Defects
  2. Overproduction
  3. Waiting
  4. Non-utilized Talent
  5. Transportation
  6. Inventory
  7. Motion
  8. Extra-processing

These are commonly abbreviated with the acronym DOWNTIME.



Waiting is an easily recognizable form of waste from manufacturing. Defined by Lean Manufacturing Tools as “the act of doing nothing or working slowly whilst waiting for a previous step in the process”, one can easily imagine why lean manufacturing sees this as waste. A worker that is unable to complete his work due to waiting for previous step to occur is clearly wasting their time, a critical resource.


Related: Only 24% of Manufacturing Workers Engaged at Job


Waiting in manufacturing is almost always a result of bottlenecks in the manufacturing process, but the causes of said bottlenecks are varied. In large plants, a machine that takes longer to complete its stage of the manufacturing process than the other stations would be considered a simple bottleneck causing waiting waste. A more complex situation could be an instance in which an unengaged employee isn’t doing their work at a minimum viable rate, and as such is causing waiting among other employees. Other forms of waste (that will be covered in later posts) like inefficient transportation or excessive inventory can indirectly cause waste due to waiting.


Waste due to waiting is just as, if not more prevalent in an office setting than in manufacturing. Waiting is defined in essentially the same was as manufacturing; an employee being prevented from completing tasks due to waiting for another employee to complete work they require. This may result in the waiting employee is working on lower-priority work, or even worse, not working at all.


Waiting in business can take many forms, some far more recognizable than others. From more to less common, here are some forms of waiting that Ideawake has seen companies try to innovate solutions to:


  • Scheduling conflicts limiting number of employees present in meetings
  • Employees waiting for manager approval for initiatives
  • Project budget changes and delays
  • Frequent technology delays/malfunctions
  • Poor interdepartmental communication
  • Inefficient management structures that require too many individual’s input


A big issue with actually addressing these forms of waiting is defining exactly what the issue is. Using our examples, everyone in the organization may know that a given management structure is inefficient, but there are many differing opinions as to why that is the case. It is difficult or perhaps impossible to gather all of these opinion-holders together to collect them all and then determine what the most impactful causes are.


Ideawake helps to address the issue of cause identification by providing a single platform for all stakeholders, employees and leaders alike, to submit their ideas around problem source and solutions. The best among them are upvoted and collaboratively improved by all users, and decision makers can then scorecard the ideas that rose to the top to provide their own unique input. If you’re interested in learning more about innovation management and strategy, and how Ideawake is able to drive corporate innovation that reduces waste, click here to book a demo today.

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