Your Lean Year in Review

    Happy New Year!

    As 2006 ends, I hope many of you had a GREAT lean year. Please add your comments about your lean accomplishments for the year, or at least one key lean accomplishment.

    I was very fortunate to do a consulting project with a hospital laboratory. In a 14 week project, we significantly changed the lab layout for improved flow, implemented 5S and visual management, put new “standard work” in place, started a kanban system, and worked on learning to manage in a “lean way.” The team learned new problem solving methods (such as the “5 Whys” and started eliminating workarounds by fixing root cause problems.

    It was just a start, but we reduced the lab Turnaround Time (lead time) by 35% without adding headcount while freeing up 250 square feet of space. Doctors (and patients) are more consistently getting test results on the patient chart on time for morning rounds (85% on time versus 60% on time), which makes them very happy.

    The hospital is just starting their lean journey, in this department, and throughout the hospital. They know they are not “lean” and done after an initial project. They know it is an ongoing effort and a new way of operating. The beauty of the above results is that my client team did it. I helped, but I don't deserve all the credit (nor will I claim it).

    For that, and so much more, I'm very thankful for 2006.

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    Mark Graban
    Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


    1. I am very thankful to have had some great learning opportunities in 2006. The epiphany for me this year was the power of leader standard work. I have been working with a large plant in Mexico, where due to a major organizational change we saw 70% of our operations leadership team change in just a few months. We held a week long Kaizen focused on a lean management system. We revised every job description to include lean concepts (Plan), created daily leader standard work for every level of leadership (Do), added layered audits and standardized lean metrics (Check), and implemented a plant cadence schedule that included daily tiered accountability reviews (Act). While we still have a long way to go in changing the culture, I look at this lean management system and wish I had been smart enough to adopt it when I was an overwhelmed and stressed out plant manager!

      I am indebted to David Mann for his insights in “Creating a Lean Culture”…the best lean book I have read in years!

    2. My lean year includes some nice measurable gains at our hospital, but the thing that I’m most thankful for is the atmosphere, the environment, the culture that we’re creating. When I walk down the hall, people tell me about how they’ve “leaned” their area, or their office or their nurse’s station. When I was in line in the cafeteria the other day, several people asked me when we’re going to “lean out” the waiting line for food. When I hear those things on a daily basis, I know we’re on the right track. And, as Mark noted in his comments, it’s not me – it’s us, working toward the goal of becoming a Lean orgainzation. It’s been a great 2006, and I can’t wait for 2007 to start.


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