Or, said another way, the waste is found at the seams of the value stream as it crosses different organizational boundaries, which are often referenced as the “silos” in which many of us work.
Some time ago, we were involved in an exercise in streamlining office work and had set up an order processing operation that had lots of obvious waste analogous to the sort commonly found in office processes. The simulation was conducted a number of times, usually in one large room with different departments in different areas of the room.
Participants were always able to identify large amounts of waste, because it really is much easier to see waste in someone else’s process than in one’s own. The simulation helped participants to see the waste and then to draw analogies to opportunities they had overlooked in their own work. So light bulbs would go on and participants would generally be able to redesign the process to increase throughput up to ten-fold!
Then one day, the training facilities were different: no large room, just one mid-sized room and a number of breakout rooms.
Even more realistic, we all thought… the Credit Checkers were in one room, the Order Processors in another, and so on.
But when we reconvened to debrief, everyone seemed oddly comfortable with the whole process they had been executing. They identified little things they could improve within their small group, but they missed the elephant in the room — perhaps because it was in next room, or rather the hallway where no one owned it.
As Bill always said, the big waste was in the “interfaces and interstices… and, as noted in a previous post, “It is easiest to think outside the box, when you are from outside the box” (or silo!).