"Open Wide and Say ‘Lean’"


    By Dean Bliss (bio below)

    At the recent Shingo Prize conference, I was reminded of the power of Lean. Not just because of the award winners, but because of a humble dentist who practices in Jacksonville, Florida. And who practices Lean like few of us can.

    His name is Sami Bahri, and he has a practice with 3 dentists. He heard about Lean, and thought it could help his practice, which was experiencing scheduling issues, repeat visits for treatment, and other inefficiencies that were affecting his patients and staff. He read up on Lean – not just the usual texts, but many others, over 20 books in all. He looked at the tools – again, not just the usual ones, but many of them, including kanban, level loading, one piece flow, even SMED. And his results were astonishing. Not just the numbers (82% capacity increase for the dentists, 57% fewer visits by patients for a full mouth treatment), but the adaptation of the tools – many more tools than I had seen applied outside a factory environment.

    His presentation on stage included a demonstration of flow – he had two dentist's chairs set up on stage, just like in his practice, and he and his staff simulated the flow of patients and caregivers through the process. It was a show-stopping presentation. So much so, that when one of my friends from Productivity Press said that Sami wanted to meet me (I was one of the few healthcare people there), I hesitated, because I was afraid he might corner me on a specific Lean tool application that I may not have known as well as he did!

    I learned a lot from Sami, and I was reminded yet again that the Lean most of us learned in the factory works anywhere. The tools can be adapted to anything. And the philosophy is the glue that holds it all together.

    So when we hear from our co-workers or clients that “Lean is a factory thing” or “Lean doesn't apply to us”, we can be reminded of Sami Bahri, the dentist who decided to open wide and say “Lean.”


    Dean Bliss is the Director of Lean Improvements for St. Luke's Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Dean is responsible for leading the Lean management process at the hospital and affiliated organizations. He joined St. Luke's in May, 2005, after a 25-year career at Rockwell Collins, an aerospace and communications electronics company.

    In addition to his Lean knowledge, Dean gained experience at Rockwell Collins in areas including Finance, Human Resources, Information Technology, and Facilities management.

    Dean has a BS degree in Business Administration from Iowa State University. He has spoken at numerous Lean conferences and seminars throughout the country.

    Please check out my main blog page at www.leanblog.org

    The RSS feed content you are reading is copyrighted by the author, Mark Graban.

    , , , on the author's copyright.

    What do you think? Please scroll down (or click) to post a comment. Or please share the post with your thoughts on LinkedIn – and follow me or connect with me there.

    Did you like this post? Make sure you don't miss a post or podcast — Subscribe to get notified about posts via email daily or weekly.

    Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation:

    Get New Posts Sent To You

    Select list(s):
    Previous articleUPS Reducing Driving Waste
    Next articleNot such a "Lean" Plant Tour
    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.



    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.