Over-Processing is what happens when you do your job better than you’re going to be paid for. It can be accidental or deliberate, built into processes or spontaneous, but it’s all Waste.

It can be anywhere and is often hard to see. Here are a few of the usual suspects:

Pricing Insecurity:

No matter what business you’re in, it’s crucial to be confident of the value of your product. If you’re not, you may nurture an internal culture where you or senior staff feel obliged to do more than is required, for fear of losing the customer.

This isn’t discussed much, but it’s a pernicious business Waste. Whatever causes it (we’ll leave the psychoanalyzing to the experts), it results in lower margins due to adding value when not required, at various steps of the process.

Customers won’t tell you when you’re doing too much: they’re good with all free added values we throw at them. When you unilaterally upgrade material or add features, it’s very unlikely that you’ll see any ROI from it. It is likely, however, that you didn’t need to.

Be clear from the beginning, with the customer and with yourself, what the promised product is. Articulate it well, and don’t deviate without a signature.

Establish Governance:

over-processing in construction - boss showing worker construction plans

A lot of Over-Processing happens when we literally don’t know when to stop. Unless you’re getting paid for perfection, don’t make it. The standard you construct needs to meet inspection and then reflect the value that the customer is paying for. If they want value added from there, they need to buy it.

Related to that, make sure to document every time a foreman, contractor, or estimator makes a “minor change” to any planning or drawing document. Minor changes tend to be forgotten about, not be billed, and add up quickly.

As part of planning every job, document who is giving the final say. In smaller firms, this will be the owner, but will often be delegated to a VP or other manager in larger companies. The person with the final say is also accountable for processes being done to paid value and not beyond. Having them answerable for that Waste will maintain motivated vigilance.

Use the Resources You Need:

The classic construction site scene that we all snicker at is 2 guys working, 3 guys watching. Over-Processing isn’t just not getting enough ROI for doing extra, it’s also devoting too many resources to a project than you need.

Deadlines, pressure from above, or just wanting it done quickly are all culprits. We put too many people and/or pieces of equipment into a site where they can’t properly function around each other. The result is Motion Waste, potential safety hazards, and lack of progress on the jobs you pulled them from. These all combine into the frustrating slurry that is Over-processing.

Signatures Matter:

What the boss asks for and what the customer asks for are sometimes totally different things. Customers (homeowners being most notorious), will sometimes ask for upgrades informally, whether that’s higher-end material or whole new features, during site visits.

Get their signature. If you don’t, you may discover the homeowner’s sudden amnesia while looking at their invoice, leaving you grappling with a he said/she said scenario and an upgrade that you’re not getting paid for.