Struggling with Productivity in your Team?

Many business owners and managers grapple constantly with productivity issues. Just when you’ve identified the ‘big issue’ stopping everyone from working at their best (the ERP system, skills shortages, supplier quality control) the general finger pointing is aimed at something else.

The productivity of American workers recently declined for a third straight quarter, deepening current efficiency woes for that country*. While Australia’s figures are less dire, productivity remains a major focus for leaders driven by the constant need to increase profit and improve customer satisfaction.

You may feel like the cause of the problem is just too ‘slippery’ to pin down. What if you had a name and a mugshot to help in your quest for efficiency’s Public Enemy #1?

Thanks to the work of the famously productive Toyota team, and the resultant Lean business methodology, there is an easy way to identify your enemy. The name is TIM WOODS!


Shigeo Shingo (considered to be the leading expert on the Toyota Production System) has taught us that “the most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognise.”  So how do we go about spotting and dealing with this Tim Woods?

The first thing you need to consider is that in the process of delivering any product or service, organisations are engaged in two types of activities:

  • those that add value for the customer (and for which the customer will ultimately pay), 
  • and those that do not add value (and for which the customer does not directly carry the cost. If the customer is not carrying the cost then, of course, the business is).

"The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognise"

Shigeo Shingo

 All of these non-value adding activities can therefore be classified as waste, and should be reduced as much as possible. We cannot eliminate them entirely, as they include things like storage, paperwork and marketing.

The acronym TIM WOODS can help us to identify, remember and (most importantly) as far as possible, eliminate the following typical wastes:


An innovative example of tackling Mr WOODS head on can be seen in this idea from a Melbourne café owner:

Phil plans to go cash free* (M: less trips to the till and O: less steps in the process) with the aid of a loyalty card that processes transactions, benefits and the customer’s regular order (O: no need to scan multiple cards; O: not storing two separate sets of data). Allowing for more friendly banter at peak times (D: no risk of getting the order wrong and S: frees up the team to engage with customers, utilising the skills that drew them to the service industry in the first place). It should also lead to better forecasting and stock management (I: with the loyalty cards being a necessary part of the transaction, comes improved accuracy of sales records).

However, tackling TIM WOODS does not have to involve this level of innovation. That’s not the point of the example. It’s about stepping back and observing where and what you are wasting. Most people drink the same kind of hot beverage from the same place over and over again. This café owner has seen the waste in taking the same order repeatedly, and risking getting it wrong repeatedly. Can you find TIM WOODS in your organisation?

* WSJ, August 2016
**Westpac Business of Tomorrow, September 2016