Lean on Alaska Public Radio

After meeting him at a conference a few years back, I consider Patrick Anderson, executive director of Chugatchmiut, to be a good friend in the Lean world. He graciously endorsed Healthcare Kaizen, as he is working hard to create a culture where everybody participates in improvement. Patrick has also been a guest on my Podcast (episodes #53 and #71) and I share his “Lean in Alaska” blog posts via my Twitter feed, as he writes about Deming and Lean.

I was happy to discover that Chugatchmiut was the subject of a story on Alaska public radio: “New Management Style Allows Health Organization To Improve Care.”

There is no transcript, but hopefully you can listen to the audio, which runs about five minutes.

Anderson and a staff member talk about using Lean to improve processes. As reporters seem to like doing, a good amount of it focuses on straightening up desks, but Chugatchmiut is also doing a lot of process improvement in business processes and patient care.

The story, without giving too many details, discusses how the five-member medical staff quit a few years back because they didn’t like the Lean approach. But, Chugatchmiut continues on. Anderson wrote about this on his blog yesterday, saying, in part:

The one negative comment about clinical outcomes is from a disgruntled former employee. What we are actually finding are significantly improved clinical outcomes. We are having an impact on reducing damaging behaviors like smoking. Patients are starting to exercise, take better care of themselves and have started the process of addressing the most damaging health care we face: unresolved trauma experienced during childhood and the toxic stress it causes.

When asked why it makes sense to adapt a management system based on Toyota, Anderson answers that the traditional management system in healthcare is based on Ford and General Motors.

You can read more about their Lean initiatives on the Chugatchmiut website. You can also read about Anderson’s recent presentation at the TWI Summit. As he discussed in Podcast #71, they are working to create “a fact-based, non-judgmental, no blame, no shame culture.” Anderson believes, and I agree that, “There are patients who are dying needlessly because of good people working in bad processes.”

Anderson said, in his post:

Are we perfect? Absolutely not. But we are willing to learn, to make mistakes and to try to continuously improve the work we do for the benefit of our patients.

Are any of us perfect? Of course not. Leaders and organizations that are more aware of their imperfection seem to be the most likely to improve.


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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.

1 Comment on "Lean on Alaska Public Radio"

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  1. Dean Bliss Dean Bliss says:

    Excellent stuff. Thanks for sharing, Mark. And thanks to Patrick for sending it along.

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