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The Lean Office/Service Transformation

Lean Office and service is becoming more and more popular, but what does it really mean? It is more than organizing desks and using 5S

Lean applies to the office too.

Do More with less

principles. Before applying Lean tools to the office/service environment we must understand the flow of work. Just as we map the value stream and focus on reducing lead time and eliminating waste in manufacturing we must map administrative processes to better understand them and eliminate waste.

Processes like order processing, quoting, planning, purchasing, product development and others are full of waste. As a matter of fact, 75-90% of the steps in service/administrative processes add no value—the lean definition of waste. These wasteful steps cause delays and customer dissatisfaction. Since one of the key principles of lean thinking is to minimize the time between the receipt of a customer order and fulfillment of that order, we must look at the entire lead time. In order to see the waste in these processes we must map them. After we identify the waste (non-value-added steps) and what needs to be worked on, then we can apply the traditional Lean tools such as pull systems, continuous flow, co-location, point of use storage, continuous flow, 5S, visual controls and mistake proofing. Here are two steps you should consider when implementing or expanding the lean approach in your office or administrative environment.

Step 1: Create a map of the existing process—including both the consumption stream and the provision stream—as it actually functions. This means walking the entire process, talking with customers and with those in every function, department, and firm who touch the process.

Step 2:  Engage your employees in the transformation. Do this by involving the people actually touching the process in the analysis of the current process and the design of the future state. 

The objective is to evaluate the entire process to achieve these objectives, re-configuring the process as necessary to do so. A company must challenge all current business processes and improve them by implementing lean principles and practices.

Many service organizations are beginning to realize that they must take action and learn to do more with less. Lean has the very potential to update the value delivery process to one that flows, error free, and deliver value from the standpoint of the customer.

A lean transformation involves improving the way value is delivered to the customer Internal or external). It entails the elimination of non-value-added activities (waste) and reducing time spent performing business-value-added operations. To achieve this you must expose those non-value-added activities and take immediate action to eliminate them.

If you are seeking help to transform your service processes but don’t know where to start, Give us a call today for a free consultation.

Willie L. Carter is the president of Quantum Associates, Inc, a process improvement consultancy. He helps managers unlock the full promise, speed, and energy of their processes. Carter’s certifications include, Lean Sensei, ISO 9000 Lead Assessor, Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence. He is an experienced facilitator, coach, and author of the book “Process Improvement for Administrative Departments, The Key to Achieving Internal Customer Satisfaction.” His company helps executives optimize their business processes to minimize their costs, accelerate their cycle time while simultaneously enabling them to do more with less. He can be reached at

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