Formal Announcement of LEI/ThedaCare Lean Healthcare Network


    Thought I'd share this here on the blog even though many of you might have gotten an email from Helen Zak at the LEI about this:

    Dear Mark,

    No doubt you've heard and read a lot about the debate in Washington D.C. over healthcare reform.

    Like me, you're probably concerned about the lack of discussion about how to take waste out of healthcare delivery by applying lean principles before any of the proposed solutions are enacted.

    So, the Lean Enterprise Institute and the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value have formed a nonprofit partnership to make sure lean thinking is part of healthcare's future.

    More importantly, we will bring together leaders from business, healthcare, and government, not to just talk — but to do — to take out waste from processes that actually deliver healthcare. (More about this in the very near future.)

    For now, I thought I should introduce the partnership to you by sharing our statement of values, which you can download here or read below this letter.

    I also want to introduce — to those who don't already know him — Mark Graban. Mark writes the popular Lean Blog and has years of experience implementing lean principles in healthcare. He also is the author of Lean Hospitals which recently won a Shingo Research Prize. Mark has just joined LEI as a Senior Fellow to help us expand our healthcare offerings.

    To learn more about the partnership and how you can get involved, visit our web site at

    And please feel free to forward this message to colleagues and leaders in business and healthcare who should know about this new partnership and the resources we are developing to give healthcare a boost up in making its lean leap.


    Helen Zak
    Chief Operating Officer
    Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc

    LEI & Thedacare Partnership

    The Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) and the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value have nearly 20 years combined experience in leading the development and implementation of lean thinking. We have now formed a partnership to fundamentally improve healthcare delivery by systematically identifying and eliminating waste while engaging all employees and physicians in efforts that improve quality, cost, safety, and morale.

    We are partnering because we believe proposed solutions to the country's healthcare problems, such as electronic health records and expanded insurance coverage, miss the underlying problem — healthcare's systemic waste and errors, which drive down quality and drive up costs, producing:

    • 100,000 unnecessary patient deaths annually
    • 15,000,000 unnecessary patient injuries annually
    • 100,000,000 hospital medication errors annually
    • Escalating costs that now stand at 16.2% of GDP, 50% higher than the next highest country

    We believe the solution is the application of lean thinking to all of the processes delivering care in hospital rooms, clinics, operating rooms, pharmacies, emergency rooms, and outpatient centers. Unless we eliminate the waste and errors, proposed reforms will only be different ways to pay for and perpetuate a broken system.

    What We Will Do
    We will engage healthcare professionals in learning how to cut costs while improving quality by implementing lean thinking:

    • Educate healthcare professionals in lean thinking
    • Sponsor an annual conference for networking and sharing best practices and results
    • Provide resources through our web site at
    • Facilitate a learning network of committed healthcare organizations

    The principles and tools of lean thinking, applied successfully for decades by manufacturers, dramatically improved quality, cost, safety, morale, and delivery by systematically identifying and eliminating waste. Manufacturers that have diligently and thoroughly applied lean thinking have reaped steady productivity gains with falling defects while improving the customer and employee experiences.

    Compared to traditional mass producers, lean organizations typically require half the human effort, manufacturing space, and capital investment to produce a given amount of products, half the engineering hours to develop a new product in half the time, while making a wider variety of products profitably at lower volumes with many fewer defects.

    We ask you to imagine the results that similar improvements could bring in healthcare.

    Already, the adaptation of lean methods in healthcare by pioneers such as ThedaCare, a four-hospital system in Appleton, WI, has proven to be remarkably successful and sustainable. ThedaCare began its continuous improvement journey in 2003 based on the Toyota Production System, the original lean system. Since 2006 ThedaCare has saved more than $27 million from productivity improvements, permitting it to treat more patients without laying off any of its 5,500 employees.

    Together, our partnership creates a unique and powerful team that is well-positioned to leverage the latest lean knowledge. LEI brings 12 years of expertise in developing resources for companies on their lean journeys, while the Center brings six years of specific healthcare experience in creating a cultural transformation around lean thinking.

    About the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value
    Created in 2008 by ThedaCare President/CEO Emeritus
    John Toussaint, MD, the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value is working to close the gap between value creation and marketplace reward. Its goal is to create a healthcare marketplace that rewards providers for delivering value measured in terms of optimized quality and cost for patients. The Center targets these issues by documenting innovative processes that reduce waste by transforming healthcare's current culture into one focused on continuous improvement. Dr. Toussaint served as president and chief executive officer of ThedaCare, Inc. from March 2000 until April 2008, and launched ThedaCare's lean transformation in 2003. For more information, visit the Center at

    About the Lean Enterprise Institute
    Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc., was founded in 1997 as a nonprofit research, education, publishing, and conferencing company with a mission to advance lean thinking around the world. We teach courses, hold management seminars, write and publish books and workbooks, and organize public and private conferences. We use the surplus revenues from these activities to conduct research projects and to support other lean initiatives such as the Lean Education Academic Network and the Lean Global Network. LEI's contribution to the healthcare partnership is being led by Chief Operating Officer Helen Zak. For more information visit LEI at

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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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