EC 006: W.A.S.T.E. Walks Summary


For the 6th episode, I am posting the final part of a 5 part video course, called W.A.S.T.E. Walks.

This episode summarizes the Walk process, to help you organize and conduct a successful W.A.S.T.E. Walk.

You can view the video version of this course for free by contacting us, so we can send you the free coupon code for the video course.

The following episode will summarize the walk process used to plan, conduct, combine ideas and decide on actions to implement.

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Now that you’ve completed the WASTE walk, and you’ve gathered all the team members back together, what’s next?

Now that you have completed the WASTE walk event, let’s move into the Combine phase of our Walk process

We will be collecting the ideas and opportunities we observed and recorded, and we will group similar ideas together, so that we have a condensed list of actions.

The deliverable for this phase will be an affinity diagram.

Gather all the team members together and have them write their ideas and opportunities on a post-it note (preferably ones made from recycled paper). Place them on a whiteboard or large “butcher” paper that can be hung on the wall.

As items get placed on the board, have the person read off their idea to the group. This will encourage brainstorming of other ideas from the team, or remind people what they observed.

Once all the team members have added their ideas and there are no other brainstormed ideas, the next step is to group very similar ideas together into one idea (which removes duplication).

After all ideas have been reviewed and combined where applicable, have the team go to the board (a few at a time), and combine the ideas into similar groups and categories.

When all ideas are grouped together, the team members should assign a name or label to the groupings, that best reflects what ideas are contained within. It’s preferred to have the team create the categories, instead of having pre-defined categories. This is called an Affinity Diagram.

After categories are labeled, additional brainstorming can occur based on the category names.

The goal is to come up with a final list of ideas that will get prioritized and voted on.

The last phase of the Walk process is Decide, where we place the ideas onto an assessment matrix, and then vote on the top 3 ideas.

The deliverables from this phase will be an Impact-Ease Matrix, and the top 3 actions based on the results of the multivoting exercise.

In the Decide phase, we take the list of ideas and rank them as a team, based on the impact of the idea on reducing the particular waste, and the ease of implementation.

Impact should be based on estimates of data collected during the WASTE walk, or from expert opinions. If that is not available, then the team will estimate the impact.

This will eventually require additional data collection and monitoring to get more concrete numbers. However, that can be fine-tuned during the next step of this phase, when the team decides on the top 3.

To assess the ease of implementation, the team should consider the cost of the idea, along with any behavior change required to implement the idea.

Let’s take a look at the ideas from a Water Walk as an example. If shutting off a valve is easy to do at the end of each shift, and there is no additional cost to implement, then the implementation will be easy.  If the idea requires an expensive upgrade to the equipment, and it will take multiple steps in the software to complete the shut off, then the implementation will be marked as hard.

After all ideas are placed on the matrix, the ideas in the upper right (green section) will have an easier implementation and will have a larger impact on the reduction of the WASTE. Ideas in the lower left will be harder to implement and will likely have limited impact on reducing the waste.

In order to select the top 3 ideas to pursue, the team should use a multivoting approach. This allows each team member to vote for more than one idea, as they will get 3-5 dots that can be placed next to one or more ideas they like. They could also put all their dots on one idea if they choose. The benefit of multivoting is that everyone gets multiple votes, so it increases the chance that one of their ideas was selected, instead of traditional voting, which can be all or nothing results.

The Impact-Ease Matrix may not always capture intangibles about the projects, so multivoting allows the team to show support for the best ideas.

As a reminder, this step is to narrow down the list of ideas to the top 3 to pursue. It does not ensure that these will be implemented, as we have been using cost estimates for impact and ease of implementation. Analysis and investigation into these ideas may turn up problems with that idea, or the business case may not be as good as expected, so the dots can also be used to select the 4th or 5th item on the list at a future date.

In this example, idea #8 is the best idea, followed by idea #7 and idea #1

After the top 3 ideas are selected, the team will decide how to dig into these ideas further. Some of them may be straight forward and easy to do, while others may require a large amount of effort to collect more data, benchmark with other facilities and companies, root cause analysis to understand the behaviors taking place today, more formalized cost benefit analysis, or may require a lean event to quickly implement and verify the solution will work. The goal should be to complete all of the ideas within 90 days.

We will discuss these implementation topics in other training modules

Let’s recap the Walk process one more time.

The walk process involves 4 main steps:

  • Prepare
  • Event
  • Combine
  • Decide

We start in the Prepare phase by filling out the Planning Worksheet, based upon the waste we want to reduce. Do you remember the 5 WASTEs?

They are Water, Air emissions, Solid Waste, Toxins, and Energy.

After getting approval for the planning worksheet, we move into the Event phase, where we plan and execute a WASTE walk. We discussed three different waste walks in great detail: Water Walk, Dumpster Dive and Energy Walk.

After the walk is completed, the team transfers all their observations and ideas onto sticky notes. Similar ideas are combined together using an affinity diagram, so there is one master list of ideas, and categories for the ideas.

Next, the impact of the idea, and the cost and ease to implement it are discussed with the team. The specific savings and costs will not be known at this time, so it will be an estimate at this stage.

The ideas are placed on the Impact-Ease Matrix based on how much of an impact it might have, and how easy it would be to implement the idea

After all the ideas are plotted, each team member is given 3-5 dots, and they are asked to “vote” on the ideas they think are best

The 3 ideas with the most votes are selected for further investigation

What if you can’t get commitment to conduct a WASTE walk?

This happens a lot, as people are busy, and sometimes these environmental wastes don’t appear to be critical to business operations, or people are busy with other business issues, like getting sales, delivering on time, addressing technical and customer problems, etc.

Consider starting with a smaller activity that requires less planning and less people, usually one or two people. The results from the smaller activity might help convince the management for the need for a more formal WASTE walk.

If you want to reduce energy, come in after hours, or on the weekend by yourself, and take pictures or write down what is left on or left running.

For water reduction, find the water pipes coming into the facility and record the equipment that use water, and any other observations about the equipment you notice.

For solid waste reduction, randomly select a few trash containers and take pictures of items that should be recycled inside, or the most commonly found items, to see if they could be recycled.

The initial results should be shared with management to show the opportunity that could be discovered with a full WASTE walk. In some cases, the smaller walk effort might show enough details to take action right away and get some immediate improvements that can gain momentum for future efforts.

In summary, WASTE walks are a simple and effective approach to finding “low hanging fruit” opportunities, and can be applied to more than just energy, such as air emissions, solid waste, hazardous waste and energy. It can also be used to address general process waste that is not directly impacting the environment.

The walk approach is based up the lean concept of “going to the gemba”, or “go and see”, which is the best approach for problem identification and resolution. It also shows respect for workers by coming out to their work area, asking them what they do, and engaging them in the discussion on reducing environmental wastes.

Engaging workers in the area of focus for the walk will provide short and long term benefits, as they will be able to understand why environmental wastes are important, but will also be able to see new problems or opportunities when they arise.

The team should limit the number of ideas to pursue to 3 or less, and strive to complete the improvements within 90 days in order to stay focused and increase the chance of success.

The WASTE walk planning worksheet and Impact-Ease Matrix can be downloaded from our website at

After you conduct your WASTE walk, we’d love to hear about. Simply email us on our website after you implement your ideas, or let us know if you need help or have questions about this process.

Now you have everything you need to know to get started with WASTE Walks

Which one are you going to start with next week?

Water, Solid Waste or Energy?

Don’t worry if you don’t know every little detail of how it will work, just get started. Use the expertise of your team to get you to the best outcomes. But you have to get started! The environment can’t wait around for you to feel 100% confident before you take action.

If you have questions about the WASTE walks, or have questions about applying Lean and Six Sigma to environmental impacts, contact us through our website at