Get Lean: Creating Efficient & Effective Processes for your Small Businesses

Below is an excerpt of the blog post written by Holly Blair for Business Link last year, on eliminating waste in processes, that ties into the workshop “Elevate Efficiency Through Lean Process Improvement “ that will be held at ReSourceYYC on Tuesday, September 17, 2019.

Lean is a way of thinking and being that applies to any organization interested in being efficient and effective in their operations. The lean tools and methods are designed to maximize customer value and eliminate waste—in any process. In the context of lean, processes are viewed as value streams and eliminating waste creates efficient and effective processes that flow with less human effort, less capital investment, fewer defects, and at a significantly reduced cost relative to traditional processing methods. What small business isn’t interested in those outcomes?

A key aspect of lean is identifying and maximizing the value added activities in your business processes. Something is considered to be “value added” if it has features that a customer is willing to pay more for, or, if you’re providing something that is usually free, a value added feature is one for which a customer will pay at all. For small businesses, the key is to identify the value added steps of your process from your customer’s point of view. What activities are they are willing to pay for in the production process of your product or service?

The real opportunity of lean doesn’t lie in optimizing your value added activities—it arises from identifying the non-value added activities in your processes and taking action to eliminate and reduce their impact on your overall process. Non-value added activities are quite simply anything in your process that is not considered value added. Most processes contain up to 90% non-value added activities, providing considerable opportunities for process improvement!

Identifying the non-value added activities in your business processes requires taking on a new lens for viewing your processes: waste. There are eight major wastes common to business processes. The identification, reduction, and elimination of the 8 Wastes will leave your processes operating more efficiently and effectively than ever before.

Underutilized Talent

Human productivity waste is one of the most common and most damaging types of waste in business processes that arises when employees are not valued or trusted with the ability to improve the processes they work with. Examples are:

  • Discouraging employee innovation

  • Undervaluing employee potential

  • Highly qualified employees performing clerical tasks


Defects are one of the easiest process wastes to identify. They include the production of scrap products, products requiring rework, and defective product inputs. Defects are considered to be one of the most significant process wastes because they negatively impact downstream operations, resulting in additional overproduction, transportation, and processing waste. Examples are:

  • Manufactured products that don’t meet customer specifications

  • Process errors causing rework

  • Shipping errors and delays

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Holly Blair

Holly Blair is a Lean Consultant and the founder of Engineering Possibilities. Holly is a Chemical Engineer with over 12 years of experience in chemical processing, healthcare, service and manufacturing industries. As a Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, Change Management Practitioner and Certified Executive Coach, she provides an innovative approach to process improvement by integrating Systems Thinking with Lean Methodologies. Holly is an engaging facilitator of Lean Training Workshops and Kaizen Events that leave her Clients empowered with the capability to create lean process improvement results in your own environments. She has a knack for distilling your processes down to what really works, creating ease and simplicity in otherwise chaotic and complex environments.