By September 12, 2016 5 Comments Read More →

Podcast #262 – Steven J. Spear, “Beyond the Jargon” of Lean and Improvement

spearMy guest for Episode #262 is Steven J. Spear (@stevenjspear on Twitter). He is author of the fantastic book The High-Velocity Edge: How Market Leaders Leverage Operational Excellence to Beat the Competition.

He’s a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and recently taught a summer course on Lean and Six Sigma for the Leaders for Global Operations program (I graduated from that program in 1999 when MIT was teaching TQM in that summer course) and he also teaches executive education programs for MIT Sloan.

Steve was previously a guest in Episodes #58 and 87. I’m glad to have him back on the show after six years.

You can read a summary and quotes from the podcast via LinkedIn (Part 1 and Part 2).

Streaming Player (Run Time 44:09)

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For a link to this episode, refer people to

Topics & links for this episode:

  • Steve’s article “Beyond the Jargon,” which forms the basis for this conversation.
  • As you write, “jargon like “gemba,” “kaizen,” “LEAN,” statistical process control” seems irrelevant to people in healthcare and contrary to the medical approach?
  • How can we help people see the parallels and applicability?
  • Why do outsiders think manufacturing is “deceptively “routine”?
  • Are there examples of “better apples” that you’ve seen in healthcare recently who are dramatically outperforming others, even though they have the same underlying equipment, facilities, and staff credentials and education?
  • “Some organizations are delivering more value, quicker, and easier.”
  • “You can never delegate responsibility [as a leader].”
  • To receive some articles from Steve, send an email to with the subject line HPE-HVE

Podcast Summary

You can also read and download a 4-page PDF summary of the podcast as:

Steve Spear Podcast PDF Summary

Audio Clips:

For earlier episodes of my podcast, visit the main Podcast page, which includes information on how to subscribe via RSS, through Android appsor via Apple iTunes.  You can also subscribe and listen via Stitcher.

Thanks for listening!

Past Podcasts and Blog Posts:

LeanBlog Podcast #58 – Steven J. Spear, “Chasing the Rabbit” (“The High Velocity Edge”)

LeanBlog Podcast #87 – Steven J. Spear, PhD, Lean in Healthcare

“How do you deliver quality and value to market quickly?” – Steve Spear at MIT


Videos with Steve Spear:


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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 book 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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5 Comments on "Podcast #262 – Steven J. Spear, “Beyond the Jargon” of Lean and Improvement"

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  1. Andrew Bishop says:

    Thanks for bringing Steve Spear back on the podcast. As someone who can’t make it to NorthEast Lean event this year I’m glad to hear from him!

    Good thoughts on jargon – not profound on the surface, but anything that affects the quality of communication is significant. One of my current favorite aphorisms is attributed to George Bernard Shaw: “The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

    And the latter sections of the interview address really important, top-level considerations about why lean thinking has not yet fulfilled its potential in healthcare. Good stuff.

  2. BS says:

    I am wondering what he meant by his statement about the healthcare sector managing complex dynamic systems lacks the many people to a common purpose as a key condition. Is he speaking about healthcare at a macro level(healthcare policy) or at an operational level where for example an observer on a nursing unit would be hard pressed to identify much in the way of any type of coordinated purpose.

    A recent visitor to a truly exceptional lean job shop (lot size of one, single piece flow, complex processing, two-day order to delivery) commented that he would take quickly trade all the lean artifacts back at the hospital for the teamwork he saw if he could have that on a nursing unit.

    • Mark Graban

      I’m glad to see the healthcare visitor could see and value the teamwork that was on display in the job shop!

      I’d have to ask Steve… I’m guessing he meant at an operational level, as that’s where he does his work, he said.

  3. Mark Graban

    A quote from the podcast you can share:

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