Waste & #Lean in Healthcare: 5S-ing the Deck Chairs on the Titanic?

Today, I presented a webinar for Gemba Academy on waste in healthcare (a recording is available here). I won’t be making slides available, but I have this notes document to share with citations, etc.

Some of my key points included:

  • Of the “8 types of waste,” they are not created equally
  • Defects leading to patient harm or death are the most important things to be working on
  • The problem is not “bad apples,” but rather bad processes and bad management systems
  • Better safety and quality leads to lower cost, as an end result
  • We have an obligation to patients and staff to focus on the things that matter and not just get pulled into cost reduction efforts

If we’re doing trivial Lean projects without addressing patient harm or patient waiting times, we run the risk of “5S-ing the deck chairs on the Titanic”:

5s deck chairs titanic lean

We have to be really careful that we aren’t doing this.


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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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