Lean is More than a Toolkit


I had a great conversation with a fellow healthcare lean thinker the other day. She shared my book, Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Satisfaction, with the CEO and some other executives at a hospital she works with.

After reading my book, the CEO made exactly the comment I'd want to hear after people read my book. I'm paraphrasing a bit, since this is second hand, but he said he now understood that Lean is not just a toolkit. He understood that Lean is a way of thinking and a management system.

Exactly! I'm glad that the message got across since that was a major goal of mine with the book. Lean is not a bunch of tools like 5S and kanban. Nor is Lean just a bunch of week-long events. Lean is a way of operating, thinking, and managing — each and every day. I hope more hospitals get the message. Thanks to those of you who are spreading the word!

Ironically, I got my first non-5 star review on amazon (4 stars)… the reviewer said basically that I did a good job covering tools, but not so much on principles and philosophy. Oh well. I disagree. If you'd like to post a review, please visit the amazon page for my book: Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Satisfaction

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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 appreciate your push for lean thinking not lean tools. I’m a programmer who works in our lean department and I’m constantly being asked if I can make a spreadsheet or tool to fix problem xyz. No, I can’t – I can make a tool to assist with problem xyz, but the problem exist in the process. Give me a new process and I can give you a new tool.


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