As a lean organization, you probably spend much of your time trying to improve the core processes behind your products and services. But what about your decision making processes?
One of the biggest wastes I see in the office and administrative environment stems from unclear decision-making processes, particularly those that cross functional or departmental boundaries. A team makes a decision and then another department second-guesses it or asks for a change. You often see this dynamic between sales and marketing, or sales and product development. ("What? Of course we didn't want it in green! If you had just asked us, we'd have told you that we wanted pink!") And that, of course, leads to wasted time, wasted money, piles of rework, and all kinds of frustration. When I worked in product marketing at Asics, I was involved in a couple of colossal miscommunications involving the targeted distribution and shipment of what was supposed to be a premium, restricted, product.
No one is to blame, of course. It's a system problem. Not having clarity around WHO gets input into a decision and WHEN is a recipe for failure. It's like getting on board an airplane and giving everyone on board a say in both the route and the destination. ("Slippery Rock? No, I think we should go to Manitoba.") But really, it can happen between any two or three departments -- anytime there's a silo and a handoff, there's a chance for this kind of snafu.
The RACI matrix is often trotted out as a way to improve meetings (although I prefer DACI, with the "d" standing for "doer," since I can never remember the difference between "responsible" and "accountable"). But it makes good sense to use it for an entire workflow as a way to clarify the inputs at all key decision points.
If you've got teams or departments that are continually frustrated by having to loop back and do rework on a project, give it a try. You might be surprised at how much waste you can remove -- and how much time you can free up for value added work.