“The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize.”
-Shigeo Shingo

Office Waste 2Lean applies to every industry, not just manufacturing. Working in an office doesn’t mean you aren’t probably surrounded by waste.
In the last article (Waste In The Office Part 1) I introduced how 4 of the 8 deadly wastes reared their heads in office spaces. Let’s look at the other 4.

Bottom line: just because you’re in an office, don’t be fooled. You’re surrounded by waste. Let’s talk about how:


How many times do you walk to the printer every day? When was the last time the stapler was where you left it? In an office, wasted motion is counted in steps. Whether it’s to the coffee maker or the mail slot, the less people are milling around an office space the better the productivity tends to be.

If you want to get a feel for how much motion you waste, make a Spaghetti Chart. Every journey becomes a line and it repeats all day. At day’s end, how many trips have you made where?


On an assembly line, we measure waiting in the seconds a worker spends idle until the next widget arrives. In an office, it’s subtler but essentially the same thing.

When a file or email goes up the chain for approval, how long before it’s sent back? Does the boss clear the logjam as it builds or wait until people’s jobs are put on hold before signing off to get them moving again.

If you’re the boss, think about how many things you’re needed to sign off on. Can you reduce this number, delegating more decision making to the team you trust? Having to sign-off fewer items will not only cut waiting waste, it will reduce the steps involved in your process considerably.


Your clients hired you to do a, b, and c. Whether a contract or a handshake, they expect a certain level of service. It’s your job to deliver the a, b, and c. Your customer isn’t expecting “d”. If you deliver it, it will cost you real money and you’ll get little in return. That’s waste.

The ironic thing is that when we “go the extra mile,” our clients often don’t even notice. You wouldn’t give a grocery cashier more than the bill requires, so don’t do more than your contract requires. It will strengthen your firm in the long run by giving you the flexibility of a better bottom line.


Overproduction waste happens when you produce too much, too quickly. It’s counterintuitive, but having more work done than is needed is actually more wasteful than doing it on time.

Every office has processes that move at a certain pace. When we do our work faster than those processes, it piles up waiting for the next step. This can lead to broken momentum and cost more time overall.