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From an early age, it’s often taught that patience is a virtue; but patience is actually a skill that must be learned because naturally most people do not like waiting for things to happen. Although it is a good thing to learn the skill of patience for business growth and development, it is also good to learn how to eliminate unnecessary waiting frequently encountered by employees and customers. In fact, unnecessary waiting is a key source of waste and loss in many organizations’ business processes and ultimately in their success.

Eliminating delays and waiting in the daily business process can result in more productive employees, higher quality products, better services, and more satisfied customers. These benefits can be achieved by taking a close look at organizational processes and procedures to see where and why waiting occurs; and then taking steps to minimize the amount of waiting.

Business “lean experts” have identified several reasons for waiting in business processes:

  • Waiting for approvals – This type of waiting involves waiting for a superior to approve work before it moves through the process. Examples include the signing of a report or payment request, or waiting to schedule a meeting or order supplies.
  • Waiting for documents or materials – This type of waiting includes waiting for a purchase order to be issued by accounting, or waiting for ordered parts and supplies.
  • Waiting for people – This includes waiting for a meeting to start, or waiting for someone to come back from lunch or a break, or waiting for an employee to return from being absent.
  • Waiting for equipment – This includes waiting for the copier or a computer to be repaired, waiting for software or phone systems to be updated; or waiting for an elevator, company car, or other equipment to be replaced or repaired.

All of these types of waiting can slow business efficiency, hinder morale, and leave customers unhappy with an organization’s products or services. However, there are several strategies available to minimize waiting times. These strategies include reviewing and standardizing required signatures and eliminating unnecessary ones from the process; cross-training employees to ensure that work can continue when someone is out of the office or unavailable; balancing employee workloads throughout the day to make optimal use of personnel; and making sure supplies, materials, and equipment are readily available and in good operating condition.

Eliminating all waiting in a business process is impossible, but organizations can take major strides toward improving productivity and efficiency by looking for ways to eliminate waste created by waiting times.