sions, etc.) and informal interactions (e.g.,
phone calls, emails, instant messages, and
critical to the day-to-day operations of
And, when these interactions don’t go
well or aren’t effective, they can add to the
negative impact of the eight recognized
forms of waste. The end result? Organizations fail to meet the essential lean objectives of continuous improvement and improved performance.
And, while improving poor leader-employee interactions may sound simple,
it can be as challenging as eliminating the
other forms of waste. One reason for this
is that organizations are just waking up to
the “people side of lean”; they haven’t yet
come to the realization that ineffective interactions are the root cause of much of
the waste they’ve mistakenly attributed to
other sources. Unlike the cause-and-effect
relationship between defective products
and reduced profit margins, for example, the
connection between ineffective interactions
and the bottom line isn’t as readily apparent. This explains, in part, why the “ninth
form” has been overlooked for so long.
The other part is that leaders don’t recognize their own role in generating waste
through their interactions. Perhaps a
legacy from the “command and control”
era, many leaders follow a simple, one-way communication style of telling people
what they need to do, and without much
concern for employee perspectives. It’s perhaps counterintuitive that more in-depth
discussions—which take more time—are
actually more efficient and result in avoiding waste. Leaders who take the communication shortcut of “telling” without
demonstrating respect, clarifying understanding, or seeking employee input also
cut off opportunities to build employee
commitment, solve problems quicker, and
build stronger team capability.
So what do we do with an organization full of leaders comfortable with their
own interaction styles, yet contributing to
costly waste? Make them (temporarily) uncomfortable: Give them a standard operating procedure for interactions that may
seem awkward in early applications, but
which will quickly become their “new normal” with practice and improved results.
IF WE’RE SERIOUS ABOU T ELIMINATING WASTE IN MANUFAC- turing, let’s begin by targeting the “ninth form of waste”: ineffective workplace interactions. Why? Because ineffective day-to-day interactions are not only drags on productivity and profitability in and of themselves, they also contribute to—and interfere with—an
organization’s ability to get rid of the eight other forms of waste: defects, overproduc-tion, downtime, underutilized skills, transportation, inventory, motion (e.g., bending, lifting,
reaching), and over processing (more work or higher quality work than is required).
All interactions between managers and team members are potential sources of waste.
These include formal interactions (team meetings, coaching and performance discus-
Ph.D., is a strategic
account manager at
Development Dimensions International
with over 20 years of experience working with
manufacturing organizations. He focuses
on optimizing talent
systems to improve
lean operations and to
drive business results.
DDI is a member of the
Manufacturing Leadership Council.