Last year, New Zealand’s Productivity Commission revealed our country’s productivity is “among [the] worst in [the] OECD”. As outlined in our previous blog, productivity is one of three key levers in generating business success so it’s vital we take it seriously.

One of the driving factors of sub-par productivity is waste. Waste can be found in both doing or spending too much – inefficiencies and duplication; or not doing enough – untapped or underutilised potential.

Waste is harmful to profits, performance, reputation, and wellbeing. Left unchecked, waste can stop you achieving your goals, create bottlenecks of the hair-pulling-out variety, and drive people to leave en masse – both your staff and customers.


What we need is a model for reviewing waste at every touchpoint.

If you’re invested in boosting efficiency and reducing waste, chances are you’ve heard the acronym coined by Taiichi Ohno, Chief Engineer at Toyota, TIMWOOD.

If you haven’t, or need a recap, here’s what it stands for: 








Later, in the 1990s, an eighth area was added:



A similar acronym that can be easier to remember is DOWNTIME:




Non-utilising talent (skill)


Inventory excess


Extra processing


But we’re not Toyota. How does this apply to us?

Although the TIMWOOD approach has its roots in manufacturing, its principles transfer across other industries and organisations. Any business or organisation who cares about productive people, processes, systems, and policies can evaluate their performance – and identify areas of improvement – through a TIMWOOD lens.

In the interest of keeping this blog snappy (we know your time’s precious) we’re going to combine the themes TIMWOOD and DOWNTIME into five key areas and get you started with some high-level questions.    


1)   What’s the hold up? Transport, motion, waiting.

A productive organisation keeps people, ideas, goods and services, and equipment flowing smoothly – there’s ongoing momentum.

  • When was the last time you reviewed the way hardware, ideas, information, and people move around your organisation?
  • Is there anything manual and slow that can be digitised or done remotely?
  • Are there gaps or double-ups?
  • Does the route make sense?
  • Does it take too long for your goods, hardware, ideas, and people to reach their destination?
  • How resilient are your networks?
  • Where do ideas or projects get stuck?


2)   Does it all feel too much? Inventory and overproduction.

Inventory could be physical – your stock and office supplies, and digital – how you store and process data on your laptops or in the cloud.

Overproduction is producing more than you – or the market – needs and desires before validating it’s necessary or desirable. The key to keeping it lean is to find your inventory and production sweetspot: ordering and producing what you need and cutting back on excess.

  • Do you know how much stock you need, and have on hand in real time?
  • Are you handling more customer data than you need?
  • Do you have a good grasp on the supply/demand of your products and services?
  • Do you understand your bestsellers and your strengths and are you investing your time, energy and resources into this – instead of trying to be everything to everybody?
  • Are you printing reports nobody reads?

3)    What’s broken? Defects.

Time and money can be wasted on fixing what’s broken. And what was working in the past can become inappropriate, ineffective, or irrelevant later.

Refunds, repeated work, and resolving a complaint are important, but that time could be better spent elsewhere. Having policies and processes where you can foresee, or even better, prevent defects or obsolescence reduces waste and boosts your productivity.

  • When did you last consider broken or obsolete processes, policies, communication channels and technology?
  • Are your policies and processes still fit for purpose?
  • Are your communication channels working for the whole team? Is anyone left behind?
  • Is your technology secure, stable, and flexible?


4)      Not making the most of your people? Skills.

It’s a waste of a good hire when an organisation doesn’t fully tap into their potential and encourage them to flourish. Missed opportunities, ideas falling through the cracks, and resentment can be corrosive and expensive.   

  • Do you know your team’s full capabilities?
  • Do you invest in upskilling?
  • Do you know about their transferable skills?
  • Do your people get the opportunity to contribute ideas and feedback openly and authentically – without fear?

5)      Is going the extra mile one step too many? Overprocessing.

Adding extra meetings to the diary when an email or phone call will do. Inserting new features to a service but not validating that’s what your customers want first. Having several layers of sign-off when a flatter hierarchy can be just as robust. Sometimes going the extra mile is not prudent or good customer service, it’s wasteful.  

  • Does your service have features nobody uses?
  • Do you have a mentality of more is more?
  • Are your sign-off processes convoluted and bureaucratic?


How can my organisation be more productive?

We’ve deliberately left out the solutions to these questions because they will be unique to your organisation and industry. But we get that might feel frustrating, so we will run through some examples in our future blogs.

If you don’t want to wait until then, we’d love to hear from you. We’re always up for a chat and coffee. Please get in touch and let us know how we can help you and your business.


(CTA: I want to stop wasting time, money and talent! Link to contact form here).


Further reading:


Left unchecked, waste can stop you achieving your goals, create bottlenecks of the hair-pulling-out variety, and drive people to leave en masse – both your staff and customers.


Five ways TIMWOOD identifies where your organisation wastes time, money, and talent.

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