Interested in a Possible Lean Healthcare Study Trip to Japan?

This is all somewhat preliminary, but I’ve been talking to the folks at the Kaizen Institute  about helping organize a study trip to Japan, aimed at Lean Healthcare professionals. The trip might take place in the second half of 2012 sometime, but there is some flexibility around this, as Kaizen Institute would be creating a custom trip. The visits would include, of course, some great Lean factories, but we’d also try to visit a healthcare facility.

Part of my role would be to help attendees translate the management practices from manufacturing settings to healthcare, given my experience in both industries. Kaizen Institute is, of course, bringing their experience with organizing these tours to Japan.

If you’re even the least bit interested, please sign up for our mailing list here (and help share the link).

As a possible discussion point here on the blog: I’ve never been to Japan, as a tourist or as part of a Lean trip. I would like to go out of curiosity to see what others learn when they go. Virginia Mason Medical Center famously sends lots of staff and leaders there. Salem Health (in Oregon) shared this video about their trip. What are your experiences or your thoughts about the idea of study trips to Japan? Pros and cons?


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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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7 Comments on "Interested in a Possible Lean Healthcare Study Trip to Japan?"

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  1. Mark Graban
    Twitter:
    says:

    Or, some of you might be eligible to go on, no joke, a North Korea factory and supply chain tour:

    http://www.supplychains.com/en/cev/657

    I guess that’s not an early April Fool’s Joke.

  2. Mark Graban
    Twitter:
    says:

    This question is part of an email I received from a healthcare professional who found a previous lean trip to Japan to be very meaningful.

    “An interesting comment was made by the factory managers in 2008: Japanese healthcare was not using Lean – the hospitals saw Lean as a manufacturing methodology. I’m sure by now things have or are starting to change.”

    My response:

    I’ve heard similar tales about the dearth of lean healthcare examples in Japan. I heard a rumor that the hospital in Toyota City was finally scratching the surface and that some Japanese were visiting the US to see lean healthcare.

  3. I’m curious to know what Virginia Mason gets out of going to Japan, and whether of not they visit healthcare facilities or just go to manufacturing sites. That said, I’ve always believed the best way to start any improvement effort is to benchmark best practices, which are often found in industries outside our own.

    • Mark Graban
      Twitter:
      says:

      I think most of the lean tours, even for healthcare people, take people to “lean factories” in Japan. That would be the case for this potential trip – factories with possibly one healthcare facility. There just isn’t much lean healthcare activity in Japan (or so I hear 2nd hand).

      I’m pretty sure I remember VMMC covering the Japan trip details in their book, Chapter 2. You can preview some of it via Google Books:

      http://lnbg.us/2MQ

  4. Andrew says:

    I will be in Japan on vacation in Japan late December/early January and am looking for a worthwhile lean experience.

    Did your colleague mention what program he/she found to be meaningful? I’d be interested in details.

  5. Mark Graban
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’m working with Kaizen Institute to do another Lean Healthcare study trip to Japan, the week of November 17. 2014.

    Contact me if you’re interested in learning more.
    Mark Graban recently posted..A Sad Story About “Lean” That Wasn’t Really Lean Management At AllMy Profile

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