Some ways to identify wastes

Identifier les gaspillages

You are convinced that your organization can do better? Do you know that some steps need to be reviewed in your processes? Your ways have been the same for years and deserve an update? Are you wondering about the logic or reasons for some of your actions? Congratulations, you have taken a step in the right direction: you have become aware of the need to improve your working methods! But where to start ? In this article, I propose different methods to identify the wastes of your organization. When a problem is identified, the solution is easier to find! Whatever the subject, the most difficult exercise is to find the problem and then document it and explain it.

Gemba walk

The principle of seeing what happens in the field remains one of the most effective ways (but also the longest) to identify problems. In this case, it is not a question of a regular visit, but of settling alongside an employee and watching him work for several hours. The observer will be able to note everything that intrigues him: Why is he looking for information at this place? How is it that he copies the same thing twice? Direct observation brings a lot of ideas. On the other hand, some waste could be due only to a person, who is less well trained, for example. This technique is therefore mainly intended for field managers, who know how to distinguish between individual waste and “common” waste.

Field managers should regularly spend time watching their teams work to improve their effectiveness. Waste at the individual level can easily be corrected by information, training or redistribution of tasks. It is the manager’s main role to ensure that his teams are well-trained and efficient.

For “common” waste related to processes or tools, more research is needed to resolve waste.

Process mapping

At a more macro level, the team can map its process. That is to say, it will identify and write all the steps required to carry out an operation. This tool is particularly powerful when the process involves multiple people or sectors. By gathering them together to describe the steps, it is sometimes possible to remove some wastes quickly. For example, an officer who receives mail and staples the checks with the invoices. While the billing team removes the staple before sending it to the collection. By exchanging on the process, it is possible to change the first step and put a paperclip, which simplifies the life of all!

Value Stream mapping (VSM)

The second level of mapping, includes the complete value chain and documents the main numerical information related to each step. How many people work at this stage? How long does it take? What is the inventory level before and after each step? How many units are processed or rejected at each step?

In the end, Value Stream Mapping (VSM) provides valuable information about the entire process and helps identify time-related wastes and errors.

Voce of Employees (VoE) and Voice of Clients (VoC)

Finally, two sources of free and generous information: your employees and your customers. Any complaint or suggestion should be listened to and analyzed. Remember that your customers are the ones who know best what they need and what they are willing to pay for. Even if their vision does not please you, it is good to hear them and to remember that they make you live. Without going as far as responding to the most incongruous demands, we must follow the trend of comments and act accordingly. They live the processes, undergo the rules and give you another point of view.

Your employees know their work, they know what’s working, what’s not working or what’s getting worse. They should be the first to identify waste. You owe it to yourself to help them recognize the wastes. You must also make sure that the wastes are removed. Otherwise they will not see the benefit of you to share them.


There are many ways to identify your waste, which is based on listening and observation, two qualities often forgotten in organizations. When will you spend time on the field?

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