Last week at the Annual Shingo Prize Conference, I had a chance to talk with Drew Locher, who just recently published a book titled Lean Office and Service Simplified: The Definitive How-To Guide and has previously won a Shingo award for a book he co-authored titled The Complete Lean Enterprise: Value Stream Mapping for Administrative and Office Processes. During our conversation, I asked Drew: "Can lean really be applied in an office and service environment where so much variation exists?" Here is Drew's complete response: Much of the variation found in an office and service environment is "self created." Lean concepts such as standard work, batch reduction, and leveling are just a few that directly address much of the variation that is encountered. For example, the lack of standard work usually means that people perform similar activities in different ways. This creates variation. An individual "batching" a particular activity creates variation in the amount of work that moves from person to person or department to department. For example, if a person performs an activity once a week, then a week’s worth of work will arrive at the next step all at once. Further, if the person performs this weekly activity at different times it creates still more variation for the recipient. From the recipient’s viewpoint, the demand for this work will appear to be very unpredictable. It is due to the manner in which it is processed by the previous person, however, and this can be changed and improved. Now, not all variation can be eliminated. We can, however, often accommodate still more of the variation that remains. Believe it or not, unplanned work can be planned for. We can put aside time for "drop-in" work so that it can be processed in a way that minimizes disruption. Experience has shown that up to 90% of the variation that people struggle with can be addressed by the application of lean concepts. The result is a much more predictable work environment that is more productive and less stressful. Has any reader of this blog tried apply Lean to an office, service, or transactional environment? Do you agree with Drew's comments?