I was teaching a class at Stanford recently on process improvement. One of the students explained how much time he spends collecting, organizing, formatting, and distributing reports from other engineers in the organization for delivery to the senior management. We talked about a variety of ways that standard work, checklists, and templates could streamline this task, making it faster and easier. So far, so good.
Then we drew a value stream map and realized that although we could make his work more efficient, he was adding absolutely zero value. His work was 100% waste. All the value came from the information provided by the engineers in the field.
So we eliminated Rajiv's work entirely. He worked with IT to create a webpage for the engineers and provided them the template and format for the weekly and monthly reports. The engineers entered the information directly, senior management downloaded and read the reports at their leisure -- and Rajiv had more time to do real work.
It was a good lesson for Rajiv that optimizing waste doesn't change the fact that it's still waste. And it was a good reminder for me that anytime you see repackaging, reformatting, or reorganizing of data, you're almost certainly looking at waste. Why not get the information entered correctly the first time?