Dr. Sami Bahri’s Book "Follow the Learner"


Follow the Learner – LEI Site

I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I can't wait to read this book from “The World's First Lean Dentist.” It's available now through the Lean Enterprise Institute.

Knowing Dr. Bahri (I've met him and had the pleasure of visiting his practice and spending a morning with him and his staff), this book will be very thoughtful and very helpful to all budding Lean thinkers.

From the description (click the link above to read more or order)


What does it really mean to be a “learning organization”? What does it take to get the people in a nonmanufacturing environment to think of work in terms of flow? How do you build a culture based on lean principles and lead that culture as it continuously evolves?

In his book, Follow the Learner: The Role of a Leader in Creating a Lean Culture, Dr. Sami Bahri describes how he and the staff in his dental practice tackled each of these questions. The book describes how their organization, the Bahri Dental Group, transformed their work and their thinking from a traditional batch-and-queue approach to one focused directly on the needs of the patient, not on the needs of the practitioners.

I'm sure this isn't a book just for dentists, but for anyone who is trying to figure out how to “get Lean” and how to lead people in a Lean style. If you're facing the “but we're different” complaints, maybe this book provides ammunition to show that if Lean can work in a dentist's office, it can work in your workplace if you understand the principles and mindsets — not just copying the tools.

Click on the “Lean Dentist” link at the bottom of this post for past content about Dr. Bahri and my podcast with him can be found here. I'll try to get a new podcast with him soon. He recently did a webinar for the LEI, the free archive should be available soon.

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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 really don’t think this dentist is “Lean” at all. I visited his office and actually found it full of waste. I’ve heard in the morning meetings they discuss who is coming in that they need to be in time for. It shouldn’t matter who it is. My overall opinion is Dr. Bahri is a great dentist and has a great idea.

  2. Dear anonymous.

    Thank you for taking the time to evaluate our practice and write this post.

    You said “I really don’t think this dentist is “Lean” at all. I visited his office and actually found it full of waste”.

    You are right; our office is full of waste-more than I can eliminate during my lifetime. I am sorry we failed by your “Lean” criteria, but I promise you that we’ll keep working on it, and I hope that one day you’d post that you’re satisfied with us.

    You also said: “I’ve heard in the morning meetings they discuss who is coming in that they need to be in time for. It shouldn’t matter who it is.”

    When we first started lean management, some people came just to try us out and said something like:” I am coming because you are the lean dentist.” In the morning meeting I would say: “Don’t disappoint them now, make sure you get them in on time.” But our goal has always been to take care of every patient. Several lean practitioners have tried us out anonymously, why don’t you do the same? Then you will have the proof that we do not favor some patients over others. If we wanted to discriminate we wouldn’t have needed all the efforts expended in learning and applying lean to dentistry.

    “My overall opinion is Dr. Bahri is a great dentist and has a great idea.”

    Thank you for the compliment, I hope to live up to it and that you think I am honest too.

    Thank you


  3. Every Lean workplace, no matter how mature, is full of waste-that’s a given. That’s why those of us who have adopted Lean focus on “Continuous Improvement.” I never criticize my employees for not being lean enough. We all have unique challenges that we must struggle to learn through. In my case, it was the application of Lean Management principles in a non-profit organization. We are still learning and practicing Continuous Improvement, but it is the Respect for People that has made the greatest difference for us. Dr. Bahri has done a great service in pioneering the application of Lean Principles to dentistry. We operate a small dental program ourselves. I am proud to say that my team had a formal Kaizen and found a way to serve one more patient with the resources we currently have, and a current state where we may be able to serve 5 or 6 more patients a day. I appreciate your work, Dr. Bahri.


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