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'CLARE SAYS': The 8th Waste...the one that crushes the Human Spirit



As the founder of Cannsult, It's great to see topics spark interest within our community of learners and practitioners! We recently posted a blog about the 8 Wastes, which is a well-known Lean concept and it definitely caused a spark! So, what's interesting about this old topic? It's interesting, because there used to be only 7 wastes and for about 40 years, the Lean community accepted those 7 Wastes. Until the 1990's when Canon presented the concept of the eighth waste, Non-Utilized Talent.


The debate over the 8th Waste is a sort of obsession for many (ahem) "seasoned" Lean practitioners and a source of confusion for new Lean Six Sigma explorers. Should it be included? Is it a real waste? What does it even mean?


Well, it should be included. It is very real. And it means that in our process is the worst kind of waste... the waste of human talent or skills. The waste of our most precious asset.

What's different about the 8th Waste is that it's not as easy to recognize and it's certainly no easy thing to fix. But that's no reason to eject it from the types of waste! And besides, we can't make a cool acronym like "DOWNTIME" or "TIMWOODS" without it!


Examples of the 8th Waste

Here, we offer some simple, real-life, everyday examples of the 8th Waste that we've seen. I'll put them in order of Most Obvious, Somewhat Obvious, and Cleverly and Devastatingly Hidden:


Most Obvious

  • Clerk Surgeon: Surgeon spending the majority of time on administrative tasks

  • Monkey Work: Senior Computer Engineer spends 50% of his time resetting passwords

  • Genius Mixer: PhD in Mathematics working as a commercial blender operator

Somewhat Obvious

  • Pointless Power: A Manager in charge of approvals and overrides walks around swiping the card to override the system without ever checking.

  • Spectators: People invited to meetings with no role, no participation, no contribution.


  • Speechless Staff: Employees without a voice to solve problems. Their experience-based ideas and suggestions go into a black hole... and then the ideas stop coming at all.

Cleverly and Devastatingly Hidden

  • Falling Star: A competent worker (a rockstar "A" Player) drifting backwards...

  • Losing Competence; not bringing their best to the table (they have given up trying)

  • Losing Engagement; energy and enthusiasm becomes low (they can but they don't because they're bored, feeling taken advantage of, unchallenged).

  • Died on the Vine: Great work that sits on a shelf/never sees the light of day. This happens in larger or bureaucratic organizations. We've saw one fantastic solution that would have resulted in a 90% reduction in cycle time to fill an open position get shelved! The reason? The improvement would have resulted in the department employees having to change jobs. And they didn't want to. Book closed on that one!

  • No or Faux Leadership: the Queen Mother of all Wasted Talent...Individuals or Teams with no or faux Leadership Support, especially during major challenges or changes. This is about leaders who do not know how to support a team or worse, contradicts good behaviors.


Wasting the human spirit squashes the core of innovation, the core of great service, the core of pride and joy in work. If we let the 8th Waste invade our processes it can embed itself in the very DNA of an organization creating a depressing culture not to mention the low productivity and poor quality that becomes a way of life. We can turn this around by understanding leadership on a deeper, more structured level.


Eliminate that waste and you'll remember what enthusiasm and engagement sounds like! You'll experience what collaboration and communication feels like! Real, measurable, organic growth can materialize! And you'll be on your way to a highly productive workplace that your employees truly enjoy.


TLDR; Yeah, it's worth going after.