Characteristics of Lean Leaders
Ted Stiles is one of the handful of key recruiters I know in the world of Lean healthcare. Disclosure: I recently joined the advisory board for the firm Stiles & Associates, for which I receive a stipend. He was interviewed recently for Healthcare Finance News for this piece: “7 best qualities of healthcare’s lean leaders.”
In this post, I’ll list the seven qualities and give my own commentary… and you can read Ted’s thoughts on the HFN page. I’m also curious to hear your thoughts about these seven and others you would add.
This experience leading a Lean transformation can come from the manufacturing world or other service sectors… or, increasingly, it comes from within as executives move between healthcare organizations – such as Kathryn Correia leaving ThedaCare to be the CEO at a health system in Minnesota.
2. Process-oriented thinking
I agree with Ted’s point that you can’t be only oriented around results. Traditional leaders will say “get results at any cost and I don’t care how you get them”) while Lean leaders think “the right process will bring the right results.” But, you also need strategy and vision along with the rest of these traits below…
3. Ability to slow down
This applies to folks coming out of industry. I talked yesterday with a former Dell executive who is now working in a healthcare related company. Compared to the fast-paced “Dell Speed” world, he had to adjust his expectations a bit about how much you can accomplish in a given month or year (but he’s also trying to get them to move faster). Moving faster is about recognizing the “burning platform” and motivating people… creating a vision about what’s possible and arming them with that they need to get there.
Speeding up the pace of change might be necessary, given the challenges in healthcare, but there’s something to be said for the Lean saying “go slow to go fast.” Sometimes you can’t try to do it all overnight (as this Lean Meme states).
4. Brutal honesty
Maybe we need more honesty than brutality. We need to be able to speak openly and honestly about problems, waste, and challenges. ThedaCare refers to this as “candor with respect” — teaching people to be more honest (they already have respect down, since there’s a lot of “midwestern nice” going on there). One east coast hospital in the Healthcare Value Network with them said once “we’re good at candor, but need to work on respect.”
5. Exceptional relationship-building skills
I’ll just quote Ted here, from the HFN piece:
“Candidates in healthcare won’t lead with results, they’ll lead with relationship- and trust-building, which is really the only way to get physicians or high-ranking clinical leaders – even nurses on the frontline – to talk to you about what their hopes and fears are, or where they believe the biggest amount of improvement needs to be done,” said Stiles.
Yes, Lean is about change. We need more than managers (people who can oversee an existing process), we also need leaders (people who can get others to move in a new direction or try new things). There’s so much pressure on healthcare to improve quality and cost… I think everybody realizes that by now. But, effective leaders help people see that change is possible, not just necessary.
7. Operational management experience
This is something that manufacturing leaders generally excel at and can bring to healthcare… if they can adapt to the softer side of a caring and relationship-driving industry. Leaders have to know how to get things done… and get the right things done.
What would you add to this list? Comments on the seven suggested by Ted Stiles and summarized in HFN?