Lean methodology started out as a way to make manufacturing more efficient by finding and getting rid of waste, reducing costs, and delivering products faster. Its main focus is on value, which is essentially anything the customer would want enough to pay for. Value is always defined by the customer. So that means no guessing what the customer wants or making blind assumptions. Lean projects need open conversations with customers and stakeholders.

Begin your lean processes by hitting 'play' on the video below. You'll learn 3 simple tips for eliminating the biggest source of waste: rework. Then keep reading for easy fixes to the 7 other most common forms of waste for knowledge workers:

How to Eliminate the Most Common Wastes for Knowledge Workers

1. Failure to share knowledge. Too often knowledge and experience is wasted because it isn't captured or shared. Other people can't learn from what stays trapped in your head. So start a knowledge base that everyone can access and contribute to. Common questions will get answered, and your team will be able to find the answers they need as soon as they need them.

2. Duplicate efforts. Nothing is more frustrating — or more wasteful — than realizing you've spent time and effort doing the same work as a colleague. Make your teamwork transparent with a task board, or a quick weekly standup where everyone shares what they're working on. When everyone knows exactly what they're responsible for — and what their teammates are doing — these types of mistakes don't happen.

3. Unproductive meetings. For most knowledge workers, meetings equal wasted time. You follow an agenda, but don't actually accomplish anything. Skip the status updates, and only hold meetings when there's a specific goal or task your team needs to complete together.

4. Flawed Processes. When was the last time you asked "Why?" Why are we doing this? Why are we going about it this way? Most teams just keep doing the things the way they've been done, simply because they've always been done that way. Hold a retrospective after each project to discuss what went well, what you ultimately achieved, and how the process could be improved.

5. Ineffective communication. Vague expectations, fuzzy deadlines, and unclear responsibilities lead to mistakes, wasted efforts, and missed goals. Improve communications by learning to listen. Pay attention to what the other person means, not just the words they're using, and always confirm you're on the same page.

6. Delays. Knowledge workers are pretty familiar with waiting: waiting for approval, waiting through rounds of revisions, waiting for documents to be shuttled back and forth, or for the information they need to proceed. Standardize processes wherever possible, and trim where you can. Every step in the process should add value. If it doesn't, cut it.

7. Errors. Mistakes happen, it's just a basic fact of life. But mistakes can be costly, and as customers have more options and the field of competition grows, expectations get higher and higher. Eliminate common errors by taking some simple steps. Automate where you can by using spell check or a bug tracker. Make sure everything gets at least two sets of eyes during revisions. Or release to an internal sandbox or staging server to catch errors before you deliver to the customer.

Best Tools for Workplace Efficiency

Now that you've got the right mindsets and processes in place, discover a few new tools to help your team up their game. Check out this list of 25 online tools to help you run your business.