Muda, or wasted effort, is one of the three types of Waste outlined by Taiichi Ohno in his seminal book, The Toyota Production System. (See the second slide for a breakdown of all three forms of Waste.) Ohno’s work captured the essence of what is called Lean manufacturing in the West. He wrote that the first step in applying the Toyota production system is a simple idea: identify and eliminate waste. Before you go about inventing new processes or a structural overhaul, just eliminate the waste in the system you have and you will both see a dramatic improvement in productivity and your process will fundamentally change. In Scrum, we often think of waste as embodied within Impediments.
Muda is just one of the three types of Waste Ohno identified. Muri and Mura are the others and are equally important. However, regardless of the type of waste, it is important to identify, track and remove it.
Ohno broke Muda down into 7 categories:
- Taxonomy of Waste
- Processing Itself
- Wasted Motion
- Correcting Errors
- In Process Inventory
In new product development this waste happens when teams don’t follow the 80/20 Rule (The idea that 80% of a project’s value is in 20% of its features.) It is the Product Owner’s responsibility to correctly Assign Business Value to backlog items so the team does not work on features that may never be used and have little or no customer value. A strong Definition of Done will also help prevent team members from doing more work than is needed to produce a valuable feature.
Overproduction also comes into play when deciding on the Minimum Viable Product (MVP.) Often Teams want to put too much into the MVP, and struggle to realize that the MVP should only include the highest value features. Its important to get those features into a releasable product so the Team can get feedback early in the development process and ensure they won’t waste time and effort creating unnecessary features.
Over-detailed documentation, unnecessary management overhead tasks, and excessive reporting are the most common examples of this type of waste. Organizations have legal and functional reasons for requiring process and documentation but it is important that these activities help create business value and aren’t in place to protect individuals or are simply outdated.
In a creative environment it is typically created by overly frequent and poorly coordinated handoffs between team members. Waste incurs when the team member taking over has to come up to speed on something because they don’t have all the relevant information the previous person did.
We cannot stress strongly enough the importance of addressing bugs quickly and on the same day they are discovered, and if you’re doing continuous integration, on the same day they are created. Research has shown that fixing a bug a week later can add a factor of 24 to the time it takes to fix it. In other words, fix a bug today, and it will take an hour, fix it in a week it will take three days.
A Sustainable Pace can also limit errors. It allows the Team time to correct the root cause of issues rather than treat the symptoms. And, doing difficult activities early and often helps the Team get better at them. Train for the hard stuff and it isn’t so hard.