Four Ways to Get Rid of Waste While Working Remotely
Deep in the gusts of ill winds bringing an unseen threat into our communities; our public places; and our workplaces, is some good that can be wrung from it. In normal life, it’s always hard to make time to improve our processes and fix the small frustrations that happen on a daily basis at work. Now, you are probably spending time working from home with less disruptions and there’s a golden opportunity here to do some of the fix-it work you never seem to have time to do.
Here are four recommendations to help you make the most of these unusual times:
1. Document what you do.
Maybe you work for a large organisation that has the resources and structure to store detailed procedures for every process you use. Lucky you! But maybe you work for a smaller organisation, or even your own, where there’s been no time to capture what you do, except for, maybe, on a couple of sticky notes or the odd Word document here and there. Now’s the time to get some of those critical processes down on paper.
The benefits of this discipline are numerous:
- Firstly, you can take the effort of remembering how you do this process every time out of your head and use that space for other precious information.
- Secondly, you can get clear on how you really want this process to be done. Maybe you can get input from others who use the process to agree on the best way to do it. Draft what you think it should be and then email it to them for comment and review.
- Thirdly, you’ve dramatically reduced the risk of no one else knowing how to do this process if you are not around, on leave, left the company, or are down the beach for a sneaky surf.
- Fourthly, you’ve just created some training material to help onboarding new staff.
You could do this in a Word document; in a slide; using Visio or draw.io to create a visual map of the process; or on a piece of paper if that is how you work best.
2. Look for waste.
Lean identifies eight types of waste, eight ways we are often busy at work without adding value to our customers. You will have all eight of them in your workplace. Even the most efficient organisations do.
The trick is to start training your brain to look for waste. Once you’ve identified it, you can start to do something about it. You can use the simple waste walk sheet below to do a virtual stroll around your company and see how many examples you can find. Have a go at filling it in with as many real examples you can think of from your business and then send it on to your colleagues and see what else they might add. Once you’ve found all these wastes, you can start fixing or reducing them.
3. Tidy your work space.
Scientists tell us entropy is the force that brings disorder to the world. We see it in action on a daily basis in our homes, offices, storerooms, workshops and factories. Nothing stays in the right place; clutter and rubbish fill empty spaces; important files
vanish from the last place we put them; passages fill up with strange unwanted items; and dirt and dust appear overnight.
The only way to beat entropy is with another opposing force – that of organisation. A good work space is one where you can work comfortably, safely and efficiently. Have a look at your desk or office and think about how well it is set up. Can you see everything you need to see? Can you identify easily what work needs to be done next? Can you see what your first priorities are? A key area to look at is the desktop of your computer. If it’s full of icons and files and photos, your filing system is probably not working. And, if your computer fails, you run the risk of losing your work if it’s not stored properly. A neat and tidy desk is an attractive and easy place to work.
Look for a Maria Kondo’s video online for inspiration or read Getting Things Done by David Allen. Once you’ve got your workspace set up the way you like, make sure you give yourself five minutes at the end of every day to clear your desk, get rid of old coffee cups, put away equipment or tools and file away any paperwork you are finished with.
Take some time out. Think about your work, what you love about it, what you find frustrating. Look out of the window and let your mind wander around and see where it goes to. If anywhere. No one is going to see you and accuse you or day dreaming. If the phone rings, you can always answer it.
But you are giving your brain time to ponder, freewheel, link disconnected thoughts and come up with brand new ones. This type of free thinking allows both parts of your brain – the rigorous analytical one and the creative, emphatic one – to interact together, leading you down new paths neither could get you down on their own. Sometimes the answers really are blowing in the wind.
Business Improvement Specialist
Gillian is a Perth based facilitator and consultant who helps organisations learn and implement Lean and Six Sigma. If you would like to read more about her background, please click this link.