The 8 Wastes Snake

The 8 Wastes Snake is a continuous process improvement tool. It is a poster-sized sheet that allows people working on a process to record any perceived wastes and annoyances when they occur during process execution. This record can then be reviewed periodically by the teams and management identify changes to improve the process and conditions of the people working on it.

The purpose of the waste snake is to embed a culture of continuous improvement. By allowing individuals to express their frustrations at processes they are working on provides better information for managers to identify and eliminate wasted time, effort and money. In turn, by continuously solving frustrations should in turn reduce staff dissatisfaction, increase morale and improve staff retention.

The 8 Wastes Snake is a fusion of Schlabach’s “Snake on the wall” [1] with the “8 wastes of lean”. The 8 wastes of lean is, in turn an extension of Ohno’s original 7 wastes (“7 muda)  [2].  The “snake on the wall” concept allowed teams to record wasted time in an immediate visual fashion to allow repeated wasteful activities to be identified and reduced / eliminated. However it considered only lost productivity to be a waste. The 8 wastes uses the mnemonic “TIM WOODS” to consider various types of waste but did not provide an actionable tool to record when each type of waste was encountered. This technique seeks to build and improve on the older techniques.

TIM WOODS: 

  1. Transport
  2. Inventory
  3. Movement
  4. Waste
  5. Over-production
  6. Over-processing
  7. Distribution
  8. Unused Skills

How to use it

The 8 Wastes Snake can be used as a brainstorming tool for people to record perceived wastes in a process. However, it’s primary purpose is to be used to record actual experienced wastes during process execution for review at a later stage. This use of the tool varies by if the team using the snake are normally co-located or are distributed to one or more remote sites. It is important that the snake should belong to a single process owner (for scrum teams, this could be the Scrum Master, for example)

Co-located teams

For teams that usually work in the same area:

  1. Hang the poster close to the work area so that it is visible and accessible to the team.
  2. If they do not have access to them already, provide post-its to the team.
  3. Provide an introduction to the purpose of the snake (to identify and eliminate waste) and an overview of each type of waste.
  4. Agree a date for the first review (for Scrum teams, this could be part of a retrospective)
  5. Encourage the team to record any wastes (such as time waiting for a process to complete) on post-it stuck on the snake.
  6. Review with the team and identify actions for improvement and actions for escalation.
  7. Remove any wastes that have been reduced / eliminated and add “dot-votes” for ones that have been witnessed repeatedly.   

Distributed / Remote teams

For teams that don’t usually work in the same area:

  1. Use a virtual tool to create a virtual poster where others can submit. A team wiki or a free virtual tool like Realtimeboard can provide this functionality
  2. Provide an introduction to the purpose of the snake (to identify and eliminate waste) and an overview of each type of waste.
  3. Agree a date for the first review (for Scrum teams, this could be part of a retrospective)
  4. Encourage the team to record any wastes (such as time waiting for a process to complete) on the same page as the snake.
  5. Review with the team and identify actions for improvement and actions for escalation.
  6. Remove any wastes that have been reduced / eliminated and add “dot-votes” for ones that have been witnessed repeatedly.

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