Great Editorial about Lean Healthcare in NZ

New Zealand Doctor Online – Medical News for GPs

I often end up groaning (and complaining here) when I see news stories or editorials about Lean because the writers often “don’t get it.”

This editorial, from New Zealand, is different, thankfully. The editorial writer was so unfamiliar with Lean that she resorted to the reporter’s best friend, Google.

I was a Lean innocent when I started writing this editorial…. So, I googled it.

Lean thinking has its roots in the manufacturing sector and, in particular, with Toyota.

According to a website, Lean is not, among other things, a management fad, a cost-cutting exercise, about making everyone work faster, or a magic wand. Rather it is best described as “a way of thinking, a philosophy, a mind-set, an approach, a new culture”.

Reading the material I have no doubt Lean thinking has a lot to offer the sector, camouflaged though it might be by some rather turgid and impenetrable language.

At least she found a good website! She has it exactly right, in that paragraph I bolded there. She’s also right that we often make it hard for outsiders to understand Lean when we use jargon or Japanese terms like 5S, Kaizen, and Heijunka.

The writer is also correct in noting that, while Lean concepts make sense, it’s often a huge challenge to free up time for people to actually work on identifying waste and making improvements.

The difficulty is when resources are stretched the chances of people having the time to stand back and effectively review how they are working are very limited.

And we’ve seen in the past how well the public and politicians respond to public servants taking the time to reflect on how they work. If it’s not done on the weekend, in an old scout camp with catering by the local bowling club, then it’s an extravagance.

Which is maybe where our cover story comes in – the need for general practice to find the time to sit back and consider how it is working is critical.

I’m glad this writer kept an open mind to really learn what Lean is about instead of just giving uninformed rantings… this reporter did a MUCH better job of understanding Lean than, say, the Wall St. Journal normally does.

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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 eBook 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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1 Comment on "Great Editorial about Lean Healthcare in NZ"

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  1. DRB says:

    Wow! There are other people out there who understand it’s all about a ‘way of thinking’ i.e. attitudes toward responsibilities and individual impact on systemic issues – very encouraging.

    Also see http://www.concreteheads.co.uk

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