By February 14, 2011 1 Comments Read More →

Fun Video: “The Committee Song”

BabarI’m really thankful for an attendee in a training workshop for sharing this video as an example of traditional “non-Lean”  attitudes  and practices that she saw in her hospital.

It’s a clip from the movie “Babar – King Of The Elephants“, which features the classic children’s character Babar. In the movie, the young Babar has been named King and the old hands are explaining to him how things are done (“the way it’s always been?”).

My student explained that poor Babar just wanted to do things the simple, straightforward way and the older elephants (the bureaucrats?) explain to him in this clip how things are really done:

“Then send it to committee for review!”

Extremely cautious organizations often end up with very little improvement, and this is frustrating to those who have ideas. One of the great things about the Lean approach is that we create an environment where everybody can participate in improvement. Instead of slow, bureaucratic suggestion boxes, where ideas sit before being sent to committee for review (often a group of managers who didn’t talk to the person submitting the idea), we allow people to perform small, structured (and thought out) experiments in their workplace. We follow the PDSA or PDCA cycles (the Shewhart Cycle aka the Deming Cycle).

In the PDCA cycle, there is a chance that our “check” shows us that the idea did not work out as planned, that our hypothesis for improvement wasn’t proven. And in a constructive Lean setting, that’s OK. Yes, that’s OK if a thought out (not haphazard) idea was tried and didn’t lead to success. We learn from that first attempt and we try something different.

Many organizations are so cautious, that people are afraid to experiment or try things. They are often fearful that they will “be wrong” or something won’t work out – so they’ll be punished for it. This fear leads to either of what I call:

  • The PPPPPPPPPPD cycle (lots of planning and maybe do)
  • The PDJR cycle (Plan – Do – Justify – Rationalize), where people spend more time guaranteeing that their idea looks good rather than evaluating things honestly.

Important points…. or just a cute cartoon with silly elephants.

Creative Commons License photo credit:  Brendan Adkins


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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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