When most people think of LEAN, they think of manufacturing, and it is no surprise why. A recent post by Mark Bridges in the “Lean Six Sigma and Continuous Improvement Group” on LinkedIn, brings up the idea of using Lean strategies in an office environment. His post looked specifically at how the office side of a manufacturing company can benefit from Lean concepts.
His ideas, however, can be applied to any office environment. Taking active steps to eliminate waste can save companies money whether it is eliminating excessive inventory made by a manufacturing line, or eliminating the need for excessive drive space on an email server due to unrestricted storage policies.
Northcote Parkinson’s Theorem
One of the most interesting parts of his post discussed what is called the Northcote Parkinson’s Theorem. This theorem states that,
“…Over and above a certain size, an office style organization can generate enough work to busy itself with!”
This is a simple way of saying that while office work may be necessary, it can easily become a bottomless pit of inefficiency. One can’t help but recall the scene from the movie, “Office Space” where the manager drones on and on about the importance of “TPS Reports.” This scene is so memorable to many people who work in office environments because it is so relatable.
So, how can lean help to eliminate ‘TPS Reports’ and other forms of inefficiency in the office environment? The post and the comments people made agree that Lean manufacturing strategies can be used in office environments with minimal adjustment.
One of the most vivid examples was given by a commenter named Steven Nixon, who said,
“One of the concrete measures of the self-licking ice cream effect, described here as Parkinson’s Law, is how much print the organization pays for.” He went on to say, “In this digital age, virtually all in-office print is discretionary…”
This is a perfect example of waste in the office, and how Lean strategies can help to avoid them. Office environments print off reports, spreadsheets, emails, and any number of other things. Many employees have the idea that as long as they recycle the paper when done, it isn’t wasteful. While recycling may be better for the environment, it really doesn’t help the company’s bottom line.
In modern offices, anything that can be printed should be able to be sent via email or on a shared network drive. There is almost never a good reason to print out something that is going to remain in the office, and it is quite rare when you really need to print something out to bring to a client or someone outside the office.
Commenter Wil Campo also recommended another way to save paper,
“First, reusing paper, I mean both sides…”
Getting as much use out of printed paper as possible will cut down on the total amount used.
Reduced Waste & Protected Information
Reducing or eliminating the amount of paper that is used to print things off in an office is a great way to avoid the physical waste of the paper. Many people overlook another type of waste that this will help to prevent. The wasted time, reputation, energy, and more that is caused by having company information stolen by disreputable third parties.
When someone prints something out that contains company secrets, account numbers, client names, or any other valuable data, there is a risk that it will be found by the wrong person. A company will have a hard time controlling what happens to the paper once it is printed. By keeping all the data digital, the company can implement digital security policies that can go a long way toward ensuring the data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Lean is for All Business Environments
While Lean is best known in the manufacturing industry, there is really no doubt that it is a very useful strategy no matter what type of business environment one is in. Finding ways to reduce waste and improve efficiency is well worth the effort for every business.