7 Types of Waste That Can Hinder a Lean-Operating Government Agency

November 13, 2017

Lean government operations

In today’s government environment, where the trend is to operate as lean and efficiently as possible, it’s important to evaluate potential sources of waste that can work against that direction.

Early in my career, I worked as a general manager for a NASA contractor in Washington, and I was well aware of the commonly held belief that the government was overly bureaucratic and slow to operate, whether that view was accurate or not.

Managers and individual contributors at government agencies can optimize the organization’s productivity and efficiency—and counteract that long-held misconception about government bureaucracy—by proactively looking for sources of waste and challenging their existence.

Applying LEAN production principles across government agencies

In the AMA course LEAN Process Improvement: Delivering More with Less, we identify seven types of waste that potentially may hinder an efficient and productive government environment.

Challenge yourself to identify at least one example of each type of waste at your agency. This waste may be related to something a vendor provides to the agency or to a product or service your organization delivers to its “customers,” or constituents. The seven types of waste are:

Excessive transportation: Having excessive physical movement of a product that adds cost, but not value, to the customer

Improperly managed inventory: Deploying excess materials or too many resources

Unnecessary motion: Having excessive movement or unnecessary employee actions as they complete an individual task

Pointless waiting: Spending idle time waiting for another process to finish before beginning the next step in the work process

Overproducing: Producing more than the customer wants or is willing to pay for

Overprocessing: Having steps that do not add value from the customer’s point of view

Product defects: Making products or providing services that are unacceptable to the customer, are broken, or require rework to bring into conformity with other products

As always, check with your management or leadership to make sure that any efforts you make to reduce these wasters do not contradict agency policy, regulations, or go beyond the scope of your authority. Implementing LEAN production tactics is impactful in any organization, but it’s important to follow proper protocols in doing so.

If you are a leader or known influencer in your agency, continue to look for these wasters. Also, encourage staff to generate ideas to reduce or eliminate waste as part of your overall strategy for training government employees and colleagues.

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About The Author

Ray Houdtzagers, PMP, is director of learning solutions at American Management Association. He has been with AMA for over 15 years and has nearly 20 years of professional project management experience, primarily in the development of professional education programs for both classroom and multimedia-based delivery. His current focus is on AMA’s catalog of project management seminars for open enrollment, custom development, and delivery of learning solutions for Enterprise clients in the Western region of the United States, as well as for the government sector. He also serves as the head of the Project Management Office (PMO) for AMA’s USME seminar division.


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