Lean Principles In An Office Environment

In order to make the most of what Lean has to offer, you should start from your office environment as the core of your work process. Once you effectively implement Lean into your offices, everything will fall into place, and you will notice a significant rise in your productivity.

Why is Lean important in an office environment?

The simplest explanation would be that Lean is there to increase the work process speed and reduce waste as much as possible. By helping accomplish this, it will add value to every task performed and, ultimately, will increase the productivity of the company as a whole.

The work process speed is increased by cutting away everything that slows it down, such as unwanted or unnecessary tasks. Waste reduction is achieved through elimination of everything that is considered waste in an office environment:

  • Processing errors (general rework, missing information, lost files, etc.).
  • Uncontrolled production cycles (producing too much or too little, depending on the business strategy).
  • Idle time (awaiting approvals, delays in the work process, being late, etc.).
  • Unnecessary motion (staff members moving around the workplace without any particular need or connection to their given tasks).

Why should you implement Lean in your office?

First of all, Lean will help you easily identify all the problem areas in your work surroundings. You will spend significantly less time on figuring out what to do, and you will have a clearer understanding of your potential business strategy.

Furthermore, you will increase your efficiency and save a lot of financial resources along the way. Once your office environment becomes “Lean-friendly”, all of your staff members will know exactly what they need to do, and their targets will be met much more effectively. By doing away with everything that is redundant, you will be able to focus on the essential aspects of your work process; in turn, this will cut costs and contribute to your financial wellbeing.

Also, implementing Lean into your office areas will simplify the entire work process for your company. You will have a much clearer picture of the priorities, while the paperwork gets cut down to the bare minimum. Lean principles are excellent when it comes to prioritizing work tasks within a given process. You will find the most logical way in which to perform a certain task and, as a direct result of this, the whole work process will flourish.

Once Lean practices are fully integrated into your work process, the morale of your employees will become stronger. They will know exactly what they are doing, and the entire working atmosphere will be much better.

How to implement Lean in an office environment?

1. Redefining meetings

Business meetings have to be as short and effective as possible. A good practice would be to set a strict time for meetings within each working area (department, section, etc.) and to maintain the meeting schedule on a continuous basis.

Enough time should pass between two meetings, in order to improve their effectiveness. Each meeting should have only a couple of topics on the agenda, or only one topic – the most important one. During the meeting, only relevant questions should be asked.

2. Introducing the 5S Principle

This is a Lean principle for structuring the work process through strict categories and sub-categories for better work optimization.

  • Sorting – separating the necessary from the unnecessary
  • Simplifying – doing away with everything that makes the work process complicated
  • Shining (cleaning) – regular cleaning and inspection of the office area
  • Standardizing – establishing strict guidelines for keeping the work area organized and fully-functioning
  • Sustaining – keeping the office productivity on a certain level, and coming up with new ways for improvement
3. Ongoing employee education

Organizing workshops, seminars, lectures and educational classes for all staff members, making sure they are all fully engaged and attentive.

This way, employees will be highly informed on the new developments within their industry, and they will be more capable of focusing on their daily tasks in the most productive way possible.

4. Employee cross-training

By being cross-trained for multiple positions, employees can:

  • learn a set of different skills
  • become more aware of the entire work process
  • understand the importance of every work task
  • increase their own work flexibility
  • stay focused and motivated throughout the work week
  • become deeply engaged in the work process
  • develop problem-solving abilities
  • value the importance of teamwork
  • embrace company culture and work ethics
  • increase company productivity on a continuous basis

These are just some of the Lean principles for an office environment, but even small changes can bring considerable improvements to any office environment.

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Common Mistakes In The Service Sector And How You Can Solve Them

Along with the advancement of new technologies, customers are becoming more sophisticated, more informed and self-reliant. This puts an additional strain on the companies involved in the service industry as it requires them to become sharper and more effective. Any mistakes and inefficiencies can eventually affect customer satisfaction. The good news is that mistakes can be corrected. See if you’re making any of these and what you can do about them.

Mistake 1: Cutting Costs by Offshoring

In this day and age, many companies choose to offshore a portion of the work that they perform, such as customer service, as a means of reducing costs. While in certain cases offshoring can be an extremely effective way of acquiring talent that would otherwise not be available, doing it solely for the purpose of cutting costs can actually hurt your business.

Offshoring often creates disconnection both within the team and in the business-customer relationship. When customers reach out to the companies, they expect a certain kind of service and may be disappointed if what they receive if not what they were looking for.

Solution: Optimizing Existing Employee Productivity

Since the main argument for offshoring is cutting costs, the same can be achieved by training employees how to optimize their productivity and “eliminate the waste” in their work process. Some of the ways in which it can be done are the following:

  • Teaching how to manage time more efficiently
  • Instructing how to set goals and plan in advance
  • Teaching how to prioritize tasks
  • Discovering additional skills and talents that employees have and offering ways to use them in the workplace
  • Providing clean and comfortable working environment that motivates the employees

Mistake 2: Following Outdated Business Processes

When performing different business processes either with your team or by yourself, you follow a set of steps that makes a task easier and more efficient. Frequently, those used by the company are considered to be set in stone and are rarely if ever changed. Given that everything around us constantly changes and evolves, business processes may become outdated. This may not only decrease the quality of service and make your customers trust you less, but can also demotivate the employees.

Here are some signs that indicate that you may need to update your existing business processes:

  • Dissatisfied customers
  • Increase in negative feedback or reviews from customers
  • Demotivated colleagues and/or employees
  • Missed deadlines
  • Increased expenses

Solution: Regularly Redesigning business Processes

In order to avoid or solve this mistake, business processes need to be continuously revised and updated. And that should be done with the help and input of the employees, because they are the ones who know what and why does not work as intended.

In order to streamline business processes, you can follow the steps below:

  1. Create a schematic of your current process.
  2. Identify the existing weak links. In order to do so you can pay attention to your customers’ feedback. What frustrated or dissatisfies them? What do they complain about? Don’t forget to also pay attention to your colleagues, subordinates, and employees. What frustrates and deflates them? What take them too much time to complete and causes them to miss their deadlines? What requires additional funding?
  3. Redesign your existing processes to eliminate the weak links. Make sure you find a way of involving your team in the process as they may have unique ideas of how these problems can be approached.
  4. Take the actions necessary to implement the changes. Take into consideration the potential expenses that may be required, e.g., additional software or other resources.
  5. Monitor the changes implemented and whether they have brought the desired result.

Keep in mind that changes won’t always equal to immediately improved results. Sometimes, you may be required to adjust the process multiple times. That is not only normal, but natural.

Mistake 3: Lack of People Skills

Some of the greatest mistakes that are made in the service sector are often caused by lack of people skills such as the ability to listen and deal with conflicts and criticism. Because of this, those directly working with customers may not listen to them properly, argue with them, and leave customers feeling like they are being treated like numbers rather than people.

Most standard workplace trainings cover the technicalities of the job, familiarize workers with company policies and standards. However, very rarely they cover essential skills.

Solution: Training Staff for Intrapersonal Skills

Some of the most required interpersonal skills in the service sector are:

  1. Active listening: paying attention to what someone else is saying and responding accordingly
  2. Empathy: understanding how someone feels and being able to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes”
  3. Criticism: how to offer constructive criticism without offending and how to receive constructive criticism without taking offense
  4. Disagreeing: how to respectfully disagree during an argument
  5. Communication: the ability to correctly convey ideas verbally and non-verbally
  6. Negotiation: coming to an agreement with someone who has a conflicting opinion
  7. Problem-solving: effectively solving personal and team problems
  8. Teamwork: ability to effectively complete tasks as a part of a team

These are not only effective in improving employee-customer relationships, but also those between employees, both of which are important for any business involved in the service industry.
There are multiple ways in which interpersonal skills can be improved, such as taking an online class, attending an interpersonal skills class, or hiring a consultant.

Are you making any of these mistakes? What are your approaches to solving them? Don’t hesitate to share your opinion with us.

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