Alberta is in an unprecedented economic time. The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the energy and other sectors is already rippling out, and individual businesses are facing a perfect storm of money-sucking problems.

We’re re-doing our “Deadly Waste” articles—and we’re taking it up a few notches to help you adapt to this storm. The cost-saving ideas in these articles may be uncomfortable, but growing pains can hurt even when we know it’s for the best. 

Motion waste can feel petty. In a financially stressful time, it can feel like there are plenty of other, more pressing priorities. 

But motion waste is a symptom of general inefficiency and can be a real safety hazard. Letting it spread can endanger your staff and make other processes—often the most repetitive ones—take longer than needed.

Here’s how to get brutal with motion waste, even as your business adapts to life in a recession-hit Alberta.


30,000 Feet 

We’re in “adaptation mode,” and we’re stressed. Those two things combined are a recipe for a whole lot of wasted motion. 

In anxious times, especially with new processes, people are running this way and that, overlapping and bumping into each other (sometimes literally). This is called motion waste—the unnecessary movement of people or items within a work centre.

Like many of the deadly wastes, motion waste stems from good intentions. Your team is trying their best, and in times like these, they’re probably working even harder for the sake of the business and their families. Fortunately, like all deadly wastes, the key to eliminating it lies in communication and careful observation.

As soon as you start a new process, take the couple hours required to close the door, unite your team, and process it out. Start documenting once the major growing pains have been ironed out and things feel like they have started to roll (reasonably) smoothly. Engage your team to identify pain points and inefficiencies, and to think through how processes could adjust.

Keep the process organic and flexible enough to change on a dime. Waste begins the moment adaptability ends.  


Over Communicate 

Talking is easy during the good times and vital through the hard times. If you close your door when things get stressful, they will only get worse. You need to jump in.

Get on-site, at the front desk, or on the shop floor. Talk to your team about what’s working and what isn’t. And take time to watch; preferably long enough that others forget you’re there. 

The boss is the only one with a 30,000-foot view. You understand all the variables at play, and ultimately you make the calls. But to make the right decisions for your team, you need to hear from the front line over and over again about what is efficient and what isn’t. 

Create a central hub for communication—it could be as simple as a clipboard or communal whiteboard. Encourage people to use it and never penalize anyone for what they put on it (within reason, of course). 


Remember Safety 

Motion waste often implies safety issues, especially during a pandemic. Every time someone overextends to reach something or walks across a busy area unnecessarily, there’s a risk. While documenting your processes, address safety head-on. Your people are your biggest asset, now more than ever. Examine whether your processes are doing enough to keep your team, and your customers, as protected as possible.

Tackling motion waste, and any other form of waste, requires a commitment to tackling the problem. Waste happens when no one is paying attention. Empower your team to observe and report, with the confidence that they’ll be heard, and you’ll be able to trim it out.