Eliminating Waste Depends on Context

This content is syndicated from Agility@Scale: Strategies for Scaling Agile Software Development by ScottAmbler. To view the original post in full, click here.

On Twitter one of the people that I follow recently tweeted in jest "I am waste".  He had been tweeting about the problem that people will often pay consultants for their advice yet will not follow that advice once it's been provided (yet will often still keep paying for more advice).  Perhaps in this situation his efforts were a waste, or perhaps the real issue was that the customer had a long learning process and hadn't yet come to the point where they were willing to act on the advice, we may never know.  But I have to think that there are other situations where this person isn't a waste, regardless of his claims.

This got me thinking that something is a waste in one context yet in another context may be quite valuable.  Or, as the old saying goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure.

For example, consider the following simple value stream: 

[Activity A: 10 min] [Wait time: 20 min] [Activity B: 10 min]

Without considering the context, the wait time of 20 min represents 50% waste in the overall process that we should try to eliminate.

What if that wait time provides people with a much needed rest?  With time to contemplate?  With time to destress?  Eliminating that wait time, or even reducing it, could result a degradation of performance.  In this case, one person's waste (the wait time) is another person's treasure (rest time).  The implication is that we need to work closely with the people intimately involved in a process if we're to help them to improve it.

Context counts.

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