Great Editorial about Lean Healthcare in NZ


New Zealand Doctor Online – Medical News for GPs

I often end up groaning (and complaining here) when I see news stories or editorials about Lean because the writers often “don't get it.”

This editorial, from New Zealand, is different, thankfully. The editorial writer was so unfamiliar with Lean that she resorted to the reporter's best friend, Google.

I was a Lean innocent when I started writing this editorial…. So, I googled it.

Lean thinking has its roots in the manufacturing sector and, in particular, with Toyota.

According to a website, Lean is not, among other things, a management fad, a cost-cutting exercise, about making everyone work faster, or a magic wand. Rather it is best described as “a way of thinking, a philosophy, a mind-set, an approach, a new culture”.

Reading the material I have no doubt Lean thinking has a lot to offer the sector, camouflaged though it might be by some rather turgid and impenetrable language.

At least she found a good website! She has it exactly right, in that paragraph I bolded there. She's also right that we often make it hard for outsiders to understand Lean when we use jargon or Japanese terms like 5S, Kaizen, and Heijunka.

The writer is also correct in noting that, while Lean concepts make sense, it's often a huge challenge to free up time for people to actually work on identifying waste and making improvements.

The difficulty is when resources are stretched the chances of people having the time to stand back and effectively review how they are working are very limited.

And we’ve seen in the past how well the public and politicians respond to public servants taking the time to reflect on how they work. If it’s not done on the weekend, in an old scout camp with catering by the local bowling club, then it’s an extravagance.

Which is maybe where our cover story comes in – the need for general practice to find the time to sit back and consider how it is working is critical.

I'm glad this writer kept an open mind to really learn what Lean is about instead of just giving uninformed rantings… this reporter did a MUCH better job of understanding Lean than, say, the Wall St. Journal normally does.

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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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