"Hardwiring Excellence"

Hardwiring Excellence, by Quint Studer

As I continue my journey in lean healthcare, I’m enjoying the chance to learn about the cultures of healthcare organizations. One book I’ve started reading could easily apply to lean efforts in any setting. The book isn’t about “lean” per se, it’s about leadership. But the author’s lessons remind me of TPS and lean management concepts.

One of his key management principles reminds me of the idea of “Servant Leadership”, as Gary Convis from Toyota often discusses. Stewardship is a great book on this topic, as well.

Quint Studer says, as a leader (and even as CEO), you need to ask your employees:

We want to make this a better place for you to work. What do I need to do?”


“Hi, my name is Quint Studer. I’m the administrator here. I work for you. What should I do today?”

Studer advocates the idea that leaders need to help create an environment where people want to work. This often means fixings things for people that might seem inconsequential (such as “we need another copier”) but get in the way of people focusing on taking care of patients (or customers).

I like how Studer focuses on asking the employees what needs to happen. Management doesn’t need to have all of the answers, you need to focus on people and building a workplace that naturally retains and attracts good people.

Studer also talks about an idea that reminds of the lean concept of the “gemba” (or “actual place”).

“Where leaders spend their time sends a clear signal to the organization about what is important.”

The final idea is that of “hardwiring excellence,” which reminds me of the lean concept of standard work.

“I’ve seen too many good organizations lose good results when a leader leaves. My goal was to hardwire results so that when I left, they would sustain the gains. Hardwiring works.”

Isn’t this true in many factories? The factory makes great strides with lean, then it all falls apart once that initial driver and leader gets promoted or gets hired away. The beauty of Toyota is that they have truly instituted a SYSTEM (“Toyota Production System”) that isn’t dependent on just one person. TPS didn’t go away after Shingo and Ohno had moved on. They truly hardwired excellence into Toyota.

Challenge yourself with that idea in your lean efforts… are you hardwiring excellence or not? Then again, unless you’re the owner of the company maybe you don’t have a true incentive to do that, the way most managers and executives are able to change jobs and change companies so often.

Anyway, I’m really enjoying the book so far and I highly recommend it.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please scroll down to post a comment. Click here to be notified about posts via email. Learn more about Mark Graban’s speaking, writing, and consulting.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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5 Comments on ""Hardwiring Excellence""

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  1. New Orleans Web Design says:

    I can’t say I’ve ever had a boss ask me what he could do to make it a better place to work. I’ve had bosses who assumed what I wanted (and were half-right), but never any who bothered to ask. I like the hardwiring ideology.

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