How to Reduce Rework Waste

Rework Math. This image is CC0!

How do you reduce rework? Here is the simple answer:

Doing things right means doing them right the first time.

But how do you achieve that? Here are things to consider:

  • Be clear about what you want to achieve before you start work. This can be tricky. Some endeavors will never start if you try to be too perfect about this. Some rework may be unavoidable, especially in creative work, because the process of doing things gives you new ideas.
  • Plan how you want to produce the desired results. Again, if you overdo planning, you may never start. So something like first five steps and a broad picture of the remainder may already be enough planning.
  • If you are doing something the first time, get information how to do it. Read a book, research the Internet, ask people, maybe even get trained by a professional. Again, too much of that will be a problem. Rework is part of learning.
  • Be diligent. Work a little more slowly. If you hasten things, errors happen more easily.
  • After completing a step of your work, check the results achieved so far. The earlier you detect an error, the lesser the rework waste. There is a German saying which translates to “measure twice, cut once.” Otherwise, you may proceed for a long time, producing further results based on faulty input. It may occur that everything done after the very first error needs to be thrown away.
  • If you encounter an error, do not only fix it. Check for the root cause and address it. This will prevent running into the same situation again. Do not blame yourself for errors, blame your process. Improve the process and errors will be less in the future.
  • Do not try to be perfect. Sometimes you just have to accept minor errors because otherwise, you would never finish a job. Especially creative people may rework so much that they finally quit something before it is half finished. This means you need to prioritize errors and only remove those which are absolutely crucial.
  • Understand when rework is part of the fun. Alternatively, in Lean Self lingo, when it has value. DIY jobs at home are a good example. It would always be easier to hire a professional or buy things. However, maybe you want to be proud of doing something yourself.
  • Your last option: hire a professional or buy what you need. This is like outsourcing the rework risk. Try not to pay for rework of others.

I’d love to see your comment on this. What do you do to reduce rework waste?

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