By September 8, 2014 0 Comments Read More →

Lean Healthcare Success in Minnesota – And One Off Base Op-Ed

Here’s an article that summarizes the pocket of Lean healthcare activity in and around Winona and LaCrosse, Minnesota:

Waste reduction: Area health systems embrace lean practice

One hospital mentioned is Winona Health. You can listen to my earlier podcast with their CEO, Rachelle Schultz. I’m glad she’s one of the CEOs who realizes that Lean is a cost-cutting strategy (lower cost is the end result of doing everything else well).

“Rachelle Schultz, CEO at Winona Health, said lean isn’t just about reducing costs. It’s about reaching more than 1,100 employees with the same strategic message of quality care and innovation. And that begins with accessible leadership.”

Gundersen Health System (like Winona, a member of the Healthcare Value Network) has been using Lean since 2007 and has focused more on their management system since 2012.

They have used “Lean design” for new construction and it sounds like they are embracing the Kaizen approach that engages everybody in improvement:

“O’Neill has trained numerous staff to identify problems and make recommendations on the front lines of patient care — right where they already work. Much like Winona Health’s system, this plan allows any of Gundersen’s 6,500 employees to come forward with ideas.

“The staff really embrace that, because it’s something that they create,” he said. “It’s really exciting to see the momentum around it.””

Mayo Clinic in southwestern Wisconsin realizes that Lean isn’t just about tools:

“…effective tools only accomplish goals when they’re accompanied by effective management.”

Engagement and involvement is also a key theme:

“Johnson said his leadership team works to make sure employees feel safe coming forward with problems that need change.

“It takes everybody engaged to get this to happen,” he said.”

lean common sense

I don’t know if it was coincidence or was specifically timed to appear the same time as this news story, but here’s a fairly uninformed op-ed commentary that’s pretty off-base about Lean:

Lean is simply common sense

Chris Hardle writes:

“Lean thinking seems to be akin to plain old common sense. Reducing waste, delivering a better product and doing it at a lower cost are universal business values.”

Lean isn’t “common sense” at all. If it were, I guess the adage of “common sense isn’t that common” would still hold true.

Most organizations are not Lean because the Lean approach flies in the face of much of business and management “common sense.”

Common sense says the boss has all the answers. Lean disproves that by engaging everybody in improvement.

Common sense says that bigger batches are more efficient and bring economies of scale. Lean disproves that by showing that improving flow is more important to customers and the bottom line.

Common sense says that better quality costs more. Lean disproves that and shows that better quality and lower cost go hand in hand.

The writer at least looked at the LEI page about Jim Womack and “purpose, process, and people,” but he clearly doesn’t get it.

“I’m not sure about the people part. It’s harder to get more cheap labor than what comes from Dad and me when it comes to unloading the hay in the barn. Yes, I know there is a monetary value for my time, but that doesn’t measure the satisfaction of the physical labor and the knowledge of a job well-done.”

Lean isn’t about cheap labor. It’s about engaging everybody in improvement… engaging everybody in providing the most value to customers, which is the thing that helps secure jobs for the employees and leadership.

You’d think researching a topic before writing about it would be common sense…


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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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