Many of our recent articles have focused on the Project Management Office providing business value and becoming the trusted source of truth. In today’s post, we’re going to look at a different type of value that you can provide to your organization.

Let’s be honest… Processes are FULL of waste! Learning to recognize and eliminate process waste can make all the difference in customer success, satisfaction, business profitability, process efficiency, and process simplification. Waste is any activity that does not add value from the perspective of the customer, and in turn, adds time and cost!

Service sectors have an exceptionally difficult task of identifying process waste because their processes are built on ‘invisible work’, meaning that their processes do not operate on a physical and visual assembly line like on the manufacturing floor.

“In services, work is largely invisible. […] It’s not just the work flow (process) that is harder to see in services; it’s just as hard to judge the amount of work-in-process.”

Lean Six Sigma for Service, Michael L. George

Defining Process Waste

Waste includes activities that the “customer” is not willing to pay for. Eliminating process waste can provide many benefits including:

  • Improved process lead/cycle times
  • Decreased process resources and WIP
  • Improved process quality and variability
  • Improved process stability
  • Hard and soft savings for the business

The Two Types of Waste

  1. Type I: The non-value-add activity for the end customer that is necessary for legal, safety, key controls, or other reasons.
  2. Type II: The non-value-add activity for the end customer that is not necessary.

The ‘type I’ waste requires high levels of collaboration and activities that may not be in your span of control. This waste cannot be immediately eliminated, but should also not be completely ignored. The ‘type II’ waste should be eliminated through continuous improvement!

Fun Fact: The Japanese call this waste, “Muda”, which has roots in the Toyota Production System (TPS) as early as the late 1940’s.

The 8 Wastes in Services

An easy way to remember the 8 wastes is to use “TIM WOODS”.

  • T – Transportation
  • I – Inventory
  • M – Motion
  • W – Waiting
  • O – Overproduction
  • O – Overprocessing
  • D – Defects
  • S – Skills (Talent)

The River of Waste

The River of Waste concept originates from LeanCor, supply chain group ( I have altered some of the original ideas and tailored them to service sectors.

The ‘River of Waste’ concept illustrates that we typically do not solve problems (or eliminate waste) at the root cause, and instead, we simply throw resources (a.k.a $$$) at it in order to make the problem “appear” to go away.

  •   Waste = Rocks at the bottom of the river. These Rocks disturb the flow and efficiency of a process.
  •   Water Level = Resources (such as WIP, money spent, overtime, capacity, etc.)

The goal is to:

  1. Identify process waste (rocks)
  2. Eliminate waste using the best tools and methods (e.g. Lean Six Sigma)
  3. Work to lower the necessary resources (water level) while, and almost as a byproduct, improving the process flow (lead/cycle times and decrease in variability).

“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.”

– Theodore Ruskin

What you can do!

  1. Start recognizing process waste for what it is… WASTE! Call it out and work to eliminate it. This will lead to a continuous stream of improvement opportunities.
  2. Create Value Stream Maps and Process Maps to illustrate the process and help you identify value-add and non-value-add activities. Utilize these in the form of current state (as-is) and future state (to-be) maps. This will also help you identify root causes and provide a vision of where you need to go.
  3. Hold “Kaizen Events”, where the process players work to identify and eliminate waste and improve the process. I’ve found great success in large Kaizen Events as well as regular “mini” Kaizen Events. The real benefit here is that silos are broken down and people become invested in providing a solution that works for the customer and the business.
  4. Work with the experts already in your organization including the PMO and Continuous/Process Improvement professionals.


Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.

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Chad Higgins

Chad Higgins

Contributing Author

With 12 years of diverse project management experience, Chad brings a unique perspective to Whether it was at the start of his career as an ice cream store manager or more recently as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and ITIL leader in the telecommunications arena, Chad has always zeroed in on the kinds of changes that make a business function more effectively. Chad's formal background in process improvement complements his seasoned project repertoire. He's never found a team or process that couldn't improve in some area, and Chad is a firm believer that a healthy company culture is fundamental to any process improvement initiative.


PM for Today has helped me build my personal brand by enabling me to reach a larger audience that otherwise would not have known about my articles and by providing a centralized place for me to share my experiences and interests. My LinkedIn profile views have double since becoming a contributing author on and I love being part of something larger than myself.

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