Will Lean Outperform Bureaucracy?


Worldandnation: Scandal sires bureaucracy

It's too bad that the Lean Six Sigma component of the response to the problems at Walter Reed has been lumped into the category of “bureaucracy.”

There are no less than nine blue-ribbon committees, task forces and review groups investigating soldiers' medical care, some of them with overlapping missions.

“Every time I turn around there is a new committee,” said William Bradshaw, national veterans service director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “That's just overkill. Everyone is piling on.”

I can understand that all of the task forces, committees, and “blue ribbon” panels might be just political posturing or blaming exercises. But, Lean efforts should really be doing something to fix the problems, right?

The article says:

Lastly, there's a “Lean Six Sigma” review. Tiger Teams and 15-6 investigations are military jargon for internal investigations. Lean Six Sigma is a performance review used in the business world to improve speed and quality of service.

Done right, Lean should be more than just a review of the problems. It really should be focused on kaizen and improvement. I would bet that whatever improvements are driven by Lean and Six Sigma might well be claimed as success by any of the politically-driven investigations, eh?

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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. Seems like another half-armed journalist mislabeling Lean/LSS. She later calls it “another form of Army investigation”, which is odd to me.

    Mislabeling aside, the main point is interesting. I’ve also noticed an orientation for government types toward “studies” vs. improvement of processes. Project teams I work with often list project goals like “we will analyze the xxxx process and determine key factors to improve performance.” Close, but no cigar! The goal needs to focus on improvement of outcomes in terms of cost/speed/quality.

    Mark’s prediction on credit for success is pretty true as well. I suppose that’s a consequence of making Lean/LSS into a program rather than an ingrained way of life. Does anyobdy know how to take an organization and turn it 90 degrees without a program?


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