When a company is Lean, it is agile, efficient and effective. There is no ‘fat’ in a Lean process, and every input is necessary to the output. By its nature, Lean has always been a logical and structured method, leaving little room for misunderstanding from practitioners. However, despite this structured approach, the evolution of Lean has resulted in some mild confusion in one of the primary areas of Lean, and that is the definition of Wastes.

In today’s world of Lean, there are two types of people – those who look to eliminate seven Wastes, and those who look to eliminate eight Wastes.

What is Waste?

Waste is anything that does not add value to the process, product or service. By ridding your organisation of these Wastes you are reducing the time, money and effort that is spent on these wasteful practices and procedures. To make the identification of Waste easier, Taiichi Ohno defined the Wastes into seven clear categories, often remembered using the acronym, TIMWOOD.


The Eighth Waste

Through the development of the methodology, a change in general business approach, and the hybridisation of Lean with other effective Business Improvement techniques, such as Six Sigma, the eighth Waste was introduced:

The Waste of Employee Talent.

This Waste refers to any area in which an employee is not being used effectively, from neglecting their untapped potential to ignoring their often vital input. As Lean Six Sigma practitioners and educators, we see great value in organisations recognising and eliminating this eighth Waste. After all, an organisation’s greatest asset is their employees; they are both the fuel and the fire of your organisation and mismanagement or neglecting this is a clear cause of Waste.

Listen to your employees

Your employees Listen to employees. are a valuable source of knowledge and experience, and failing to ask for their input is a serious Waste of valuable information. Often the customer-facing individuals or those operating the processes, know firsthand the areas of your organisation most in need of improvement and they are also likely to have the
best solutions.

Nurture your employeesNurture your employees.

From the axe-wielders of old to the modern day tradesmen, business minded individuals understand the importance of looking after the tools of their trade. They know if they are faulty, they will create defects, and if they break they are expensive to replace. Similarly, if an employee is not nurtured, if their welfare is neglected, then they will not work as effectively as possible and are more likely to make costly mistakes.

Whatsmore, if the neglect continues, the employee will reach ‘breaking’ point and leave the organisation altogether, incurring the company the cost  of finding and training a replacement.

Train your employees

One of the most effective ways of nurturing your employees, is through training and development. As we have explored in past insights, training is a major motivating factor for many employees, with a third of employees considering training a perk. However, training not only increases employee satisfaction and therefore retention, but it can offer real financial return on investment for the employer. In fact, our research has shown that the average Lean Six Sigma Green Belt generates at least five times the training costs, just from their first project!Train your employees.

The use of training to rid your organisation of Waste incurred through your employees is also an important investment in prevention of defect costs – or worse! One extreme but relevant example of the serious costs of insufficient training can be seen in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the June 2015 crash of Alton Towers Smiler ride, that left five passengers seriously injured. The investigation has recently defined one of the key contributing factors of the devastating crash as a lack of training or guidelines provided to the operators of the ride for what to do in those circumstances.

For the passengers of the ride, this Employee Waste resulted in life changing injuries and experience, and for the organisation, it resulted in a multi-million pound fine and irreparable damage to its reputation.

Where we stand

Those that choose to acknowledge the eighth waste can simply add an ‘E’ for ‘Employee talent’ on the end of TIMWOOD, or use the popular acronym, DOWNTIME.



To add the E or not to add the E: That is the question. Or rather, does it matter whether you use TIMWOOD, TIMWOODE, or DOWNTIME?

The simple answer is that it’s all a matter of preference and approach, but as an organisation we train and apply DOWNTIME. We believe that those who adopt and recognise the importance of the eighth Waste are affording themselves a clear reminder to make the most of their employees.

Over our time as educators and consultants, we have seen the incredible results achieved by those who rid their businesses of this Waste. From past delegates whose Business Improvement projects continue to achieve impressive savings, to current clients, such as Manx Telecom, who are empowering their employees to create an inspiring culture of Continuous Improvement. The greatest success stories come from those who engage and apply their employees effectively, and these organisations and their individuals are proof that the removal of the eighth Waste is worth investing in.

If you are interested in learning more about the Lean Wastes, as well as how to effectively identify and remove them from a process, click the button below to take a look at our Eight Wastes training course. 

Taking the first steps.