Lean Metric: Waste Elimination Effectiveness

It happened about 15 years ago, but I remember it very clearly. My sensei, never one to mince words, shared his thoughts on the performance of the four teams. He grabbed a flipchart and scratched out a formula - one that I now call "waste elimination effectiveness."

The W.E.E. = identified waste X acknowledged waste X eliminated waste. It's cumulative, like rolled throughput yield (i.e., 80% X 60% X 65% = 31%). A low % in any of the factors is NOT good, multiple factors, disaster.

Some teams fared a lot better than others in the sensei's semi-quantitative assessment. I don't remember the scores. Not really important. What is important are the underlying principles and perspective. Here are some of my humble W.E.E. reflections.

The great Hiroyuki Hirano calls the practice of identifying waste "wastology." Pretty cool term.  In my estimation, it's about 85% technical skill and 15% behavioral. In other words, with study, hard work , the right tools/techniques, and a lot of practice, you can learn how to identify waste. In order to drive the W.E.E.'s waste identification number, you also have to apply sufficient rigor and stamina.

Now, you can teach a person to identify waste, but you can't MAKE them acknowledge it (kind of like that horse and water thing). The willingness to acknowledge waste is primarily behavioral. I put this at a 10% technical and 90% behavioral "skill mix." A retributive culture and/or a lack of humility will minimize acknowledgment. Of course, lazy folk know that if they don't acknowledge the waste, then they won't be obligated to try to eliminate it ("Waste? What waste?").

...And even if people acknowledge the waste, you can't MAKE them eliminate it.  Some just don't have the killer instinct. I see elimination as a 50%/50% split between technical and behavioral. A lack of bias for action or aggressiveness will limit waste elimination. Similarly, from a technical perspective, if the kaizener does not apply adequate countermeasures, and apply them against the real root cause(s), they're just spinning their wheels.

So, generating a high waste elimination effectiveness level is not easy...but, pretty much anything worth accomplishing isn't easy.

Related posts: Kaizen Principle: Bias for Action, Time Observations – 10 Common Mistakes, The Truth Will Set You Free!

There are 9 Comments

Matt Wrye's picture

I really like the way you put this. It makes perfect sense. The more waste that is identified the better chances of having more acknowledged which leads to better chances of more eliminated. Very well put. Thanks for sharing that.

markrhamel's picture

Hi Matt,

Thanks for the comment!

It helps me remember that we so often leave lots of unaddressed waste "on the table."

Enjoy the 4th.

Best regards,

markrhamel's picture

Hi Brian,

Thanks for commenting!

Yes, I guess one of the first steps in self-help is to admit that you have a problem. It is beyond just a clinical thing. Accordingly, that's why sometimes the sensei has to become a pain in the @#$. Those who are blind, disingenuous and/or apathetic need to be shaken up a bit!

Enjoy Independence Day with that new baby.

Best regards,

Brian Buck's picture

Mark, I agree completely. I think many people can intellectualize a waste existing in their process but emotionally fail to acknowlede that the waste is a problem. You will never eliminate if you don't think there is a problem!

Great way to point out how behavior plays into waste! Have a happy 4th of July!

markrhamel's picture

Hi Ryan,

Thanks for the comment! Please send me an email (mark@kaizenfieldbook.com) and let me know more about the industry that you are in, geographical region, etc. and perhaps I can better help you identify some good lean companies to visit/contact. For now, I would consider folks like: Danaher, Tuthill, Parker Hannifin, Toyota (obviously), Thedacare, Autoliv, Hon, etc.

In the meantime, does anybody out there have a "short list" of excellent lean organizations that they would like to share.

Best regards,

rbmckenz13's picture

Very cool. I want to start working on lean and getting it going at my company. This stuff is so cool. Is there a Top 10 Lean company list out there? Possible benchmarking and/or networking.

I'm sure you have some posts here about identifying waste. I need to read up on those.


Luke's picture

Is this more of a tool to explain conceptually the intent of eliminating waste or do you really measure it? If you do, how?


markrhamel's picture

Hi Luke,

Thanks for the question.

The purpose of the metric is definitely to explain the concept and hopefully instill in folks the right behavior. However, it can be used as a ROUGH measure by a sensei or for a team (as they self-reflect) in the right situation.

Best regards,

organization's picture

theory organization...

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