Leaning or Elimination or Waste – either in Time, unnecessary physical movement or entire pieces of the process is usually considered good and beneficial, but may not be, always. Leaning can cause sub-optimization at an organizational level when performed within the perspective of a Department or just a workgroup alone! It can cause additional waste down or up the process stream wiping out any gains that accrue from leaning a part of the process!
In an Lean Manufacturing Environment, these kinds of problems become immediately obvious and a solution is sought very soon after it is discovered. Speeding up one step in a manufacturing process by leaning can cause a build-up of Work In Progress inventories down the assembly line. The downstream process may need to employ additional resources, wiping out any savings that the now lean upstream process claims.
In many organizational business processes, these may not be so apparent immediately but sooner or later they will show up. For example in an Accounts Payables process, they find a quicker, faster way to process invoices and pay vendors. This may not be desirable from a cash flow perspective since more cash is moving out faster, causing headaches for the Finance and Accounting department that needs to make sure that this cash is available sooner than needed before.
Business Processes, when running smoothly, may be in balance, albeit in an inefficient way, overall. Leaning of activities may need to make sure that processes upstream and downstream are not affected adversely. Not doing this may only provide an illusion of actual gain while the overall effect may not be that beneficial!
The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize.- Shigeo Shingo (Toyota)