The 9th Type of #Lean Waste – Tape?


I was preparing for the Gemba Academy webinar that I'm doing next Tuesday (you can still sign up) on:

 Stories about the Eight Types of Waste in Healthcare.

I found this fun picture from about 2008 that I decided to incorporate into my talk. I was leading some 5S work in an X-ray area, where the focus was on preventing delays to patient flow by making sure staff had the right supplies available in the right locations.

The team played a prank on me while I was away from our conference room. :-)

I dubbed this the 9th type of waste… wasting tape to do unnecessary “5S” type work. Putting tape around my laptop wouldn't be Lean, it would be L.A.M.E.

waste of tape

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. For a second, I thought that was a photo from your home office. Do you still have kanban for your paper towel supply? :)

    • :-)

      Yes, the kanban bin sizes are a bit smaller, since we’re in a condo, not a house, and I don’t have room for those Costco mega packs.

      So, I go to the store more often!

  2. OK, Mark, maybe in this instance LAME, but way back in the day, I did something similar in my office to guide the nightly cleaning crew. I was tired of my workplace being a mess when I would arrive in the morning. It actually worked…so while I think tape is funny as a waste, I have to say it can be useful depending on the context. :-)

  3. I completely agree, but it depends where one is in the journey.

    I once taught a group the fundamentals of Lean. For folks in that group, first learning about Lean and the application of 5S might inspire them to give it a shot. And, if the application is something silly such as applying the “every thing has a home and every home has a place” for someone’s desk, then at least they’re applying the principle.

    Silly application, but we need to celebrate the effort.

    • I see your point and I try not to be too hard on people who apply a tool in a way that doesn’t really solve a problem.

      If a person taped off their own desk… well OK, cool, they are trying. I would celebrate the effort and realize they will move on to more meaningful improvements. Being discouraging doesn’t help anybody.

      Now, if a manager or a “lean improvement specialist” FORCED people to tape off their desks, I might challenge them a little more and ask “what was the problem being solved? did this solve a problem?”

      So I see a difference between initiating something and forcing others to do something. It’s more “L.A.M.E.” when it’s forced in a topdown way.

  4. A classic example of people deploying a tool to fix a problem that probably doesn’t exist without understanding the principle the tool was designed to achieve.

    Sadly the classic western approach to Lean deployment destined to fail.

    • It *would* be an example of that, but it was a joke… a prank. I think I taught the team well that you don’t improve things by merely putting tape around everything.


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