I guided some folks through a waste walk today, so I figured it’d be a good opportunity to share a few words on what they are, and why and how you might want to try one.
First off, waste. As you practice continuous improvement, you’ll - I hope - come to celebrate waste wherever you see it. Wasted effort, mistakes, duplicated work, errors that propagate through our systems - these are all opportunities for improvement.
And walking has its own benefits, too, which to me are closely linked to solitude and producing ideas. Getting up and moving around is important.
Combine the “waste” with the “walk” and you have a waste walk. Simply wander around and look for waste and try to imagine a world where the waste wasn’t there, or how things might be improved if you could get rid of it.
Noticing the waste is the first part, though - so print off a waste walk sheet and spend fifteen minutes doing it. You might be surprised by what you find.
By the way, I often find that different people notice different wastes. That’s great! So this can become a group activity. Take waste walks and compare what you find. Beginners and experienced people will see different things. Outsiders will notice different things than insiders. And any of these wastes are opportunities to start an A3 or other activity to try to make things better by removing the waste entirely, or even making it a little bit less intrusive.
I give Walt Whitman the last word, from his “Song of the Open Road”:
Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well.
Allons! be not detain’d!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.