The Waiting Game: Get Paid to do Absolutely Nothing

The Waiting Game: Get Paid to do Absolutely Nothing has just finished a mini-study and the results are quite eye-opening…or should I say eye-watering? They certainly should be for whoever is paying the wage bill!

In our Lean efforts to create value for our clients and patients, one area of muda that impedes flow is waiting. Have you ever realised how much wasted time is spent waiting for something during the course of a workday? I’ve been wondering about this so decided to measure it, admittedly quite crudely, armed with the stopwatch function on my iphone.

A few assumptions: Firstly, the waste being measured is type II muda, that is to say the non-value-added AND unnecessary waiting that derives from poor processes.

For example, waiting due to late clients, having to wait for a computer to boot up in the morning, or waiting to use a piece of lab equipment whilst its reagents are topped up right when you need it are all examples of type II muda (yes, the reagents are necessary but should have been addressed before the need to use the machine arose).

Type I muda, on the other hand, is a form of waste which although is non-value-added is actually deemed necessary to the functioning of the practice and its service provision (however, clients may not see it as directly adding value so it’s still classed as non-value-added).

Examples of type I muda include waiting for a premed to take effect on a patient and waiting for a lab machine to process a blood sample. Type I muda was not measured during this study.

Secondly, I didn’t include any tea-break time, lunchtime, or other time due to inactivity simply because I did not have anything to do (rare but occasionally it happens!).

Thirdly, waiting times recorded were no reflection of other people’s inability. Remember, in Lean it’s generally the process and not the person that is at fault.

And so, over the course of a fairly average week the results are:waitinggame

An average of 62 minutes a day of waiting equating to over 5 hours a week of doing absolutely nothing. Over an average working year? A whopping 10 days of solid inactivity due to waiting around which you’re getting paid for!

What’s even more disconcerting is that this study was conducted at what I would consider a fairly “value-added” veterinary practice – there will definitely be worse out there and so this figure may even be conservative!

So, to conclude: There is always room for improvement in our processes and a culture of continuous improvement is a hallmark of the Lean philosophy. Unless we are content to kick back and watch 10 days of our working lives vanish before us or, perhaps more importantly, if employers are happy to pay highly qualified staff to sit idle for 10, 15 or maybe even 20 working days a year, then we should endeavour to remove the waste of waiting and improve the value we deliver to our clients and patients.

With a little bit of training, Lean Thinking can help staff to map the value stream and identify all the muda along the patient pathway. Using Lean tools, staff can then work together to strip out the waste from the processes and work towards designing and implementing a vastly improved value stream. Better for employers, better for staff, better for patients and clients.