‘Lean" (Toyota Production System) is Not Just for "Lean Times" (Bad Economy)


Grand Forks Herald | News in area business (scroll down)

From a North Dakota newspaper… see if you can spot the part of the article that irritated me:

Training at Villa, Fair Meadow nursing homes

A $279,483 grant from the Minnesota Jobs Skills Partnership, matched by $456,000 from two participating providers, the Villa St. Vincent/Summit in Crookston and Fair Meadow Nursing Home in Fertile, Minn., in collaboration with Northland Community and Technical College, Thief River Falls, will make advanced lean healthcare training possible at both institutions.

The term “lean” applies to changes that need to be made in lean times.

The program will run for three years. NCTC will work with the two facilities to provide advanced, on-site lean courses on the fundamentals of lean health care, principles of continuous improvement and workplace organization. To help sustain a lean culture, a train-the-trainer course will be created for each facility. Continuing education credits will be awarded to trainees who successfully complete the training.”

It's certainly not the part about money being spent to improve nursing home care. Nor did I mind anything in the third paragraph. You need a focus on a Lean culture, not just implementing tools. It needs to be a somewhat sustained effort to “make it stick” in the organization.

It's the middle paragraph… the last part:

“…need to be made in lean times.”

Implementing Lean has nothing to do with “lean times” — meaning either a bad economy or financial pressure to an organization. We also “need” Lean improvement (meaning quality improvement, safety improvement, employee morale improvement, and cost improvement) when times are GOOD. There's never a bad time to implement Lean in the sense of “lean times” or “good times.”

The original The Machine That Changed the World definition of Lean had nothing to do about who was in “lean times.” It was about Toyota's incredible advantage in quality, speed, cost, etc. True, you could say it was Toyota's (and Japan's) “lean times” after WWII that led to their creativity and development of the Toyota Production System. Have GM's “lean times” led to similar innovation?

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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.


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