The 7 types of Muda (waste) for the modern enterprise

Muda (無駄on’yomi reading, ateji) is a Japanese word meaning “futility; uselessness; wastefulness.

We all know the origins of Lean wasted started back in manufacturing and it’s always a great interview question to see if candidates can real off all 7. But given most of our clients are digital clients rather than manufacturing how do we equate the 7 types of waste to the modern enterprise?

Car manufacturing broadcast b-roll and production footage - Best Practice
Lean waste is easy to spot

Well, I’ve done a mapping that I think works with most digital enterprises. The Lean principles of the Toyota Production System still apply – it is just in a more recognizable taxonomy for non-manufacturing clients.

Lean ManufacturingLean Enterprise
OverproductionUnnecessary features
OverprocessingUnnecessary documentation and process
InventoryUncomplete work (WIP)
TransportationHandoffs during the value stream
WatingWait times
MotionContext switching
Underutilization of peopleUnderutilization of talent
Adapted from Mary Poppendieck, Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit 2003

There are a lot of places to hide in the modern office, especially now most of us are working remotely and our ALMs and codebases are in the cloud. If tech debt was a physical thing, imagine each line of bad code was a post-it notes….where would you hide them all – in a drawer or cupboard hidden away out of sight. Or would you have them stuck to the windows for all to inspect and see?

Office Environment |
Where is the waste here? It’s not as easy to see in the modern enterprise

Overproduction > Are you doing unnecessary work. I’m a huge fan of the art of maximizing the amount of work not done. In manufacturing when we overproduce we can see the stockpiled up in the warehouse taking up valuable room. With software development, our Features are on a server someone so it’s a lot more tacit.

Overprocessing > Don’t let your current processes strangle innovation and delivery of value to your customers. Understand what governance is required and then ‘move it left’ and work with it not against it. The majority of overprocessing is due to not fully understanding what our audit/regulators require so we end up doing too much to overcompensate.

Errors > ‘You can’t scale crappy code’ as Dean Leffingwell says. Are we building quality in from the start to reduce the number of defects we get?

Inventory > Work in Progress is the killer of all good portfolios. How many programs are you running at once? It requires an enormous amount of time to ‘manage’ programs – especially if you are still using project cost-based accounting

Transportation > When was the last time you did a Value Stream mapping exercise to see where the handoffs are in your enterprise? It’s really important we know where our biggest handoffs are so we can start addressing them.

Waiting > We all hate waiting for things. Whether it’s a tester waiting for dev to finish or your customer waiting for a production release. Measure all your wait times then start reducing the ones that cause the biggest bottlenecks.

Motion > Context switching not only annoys your staff and reduces productivity it is also very expensive to your bottom line. So stop starting and start finishing.

Underutilization of people > People want to do a good job – so are you fostering a generative culture that understands the talents of your people and allows them to thrive.

This is not a definitive mapping but I think it points you in the right direction for having those crucial conversations with clients about their waste.

Please leave any comments below.

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