While in Boston, I'm getting the chance to sit in on some sessions of an MIT Seminar in Healthcare Systems Innovation.
Today, the session that focused a lot of Lean as a means to improve quality and cost. Lean is the focus of a few class sessions, including guest lectures from MIT's Deborah Nightingale and Steve Spear. It's great that Lean is being given such attention.
The professor made a great point that no single solution, Lean or otherwise is a silver bullet. Complex systems require complex solutions. He's right. I agree that Lean is not the ONLY systemic change that's required in healthcare.
He brought up an interesting point — one reason that any organization struggles to “become Lean” is that they are often just copying Toyota too literally instead of thinking for themselves. Even Toyota does “un-Toyota-like” things when it makes sense — like adding buffers in the middle of a long assembly line so one andon-related stoppage does not stop the entire line.
The real key to TPS seems to be developing problem solvers — as some hospitals are aiming for, a culture of everybody solving problems and improving every day.
Will you get that by copying? Probably not.
The professor then placed blame on consultants for selling a cookbook-like Gospel According to Toyota. Easy answers and rules to blindly follow.
I spoke up and asked, “Doesn't the client take some responsibility for WANTING easy answers, silver bullets, and 90 day paths to ‘being Lean' without wanting to think?”
We agreed that the consultant (a good one) has an obligation to inform the client that they can't get Lean in 90 days, that there are no easy answers. But some consultants are happy to sell cookbooks and easy answers.
It's a chicken and egg problem — who is to blame? The consultant, or the client, or both? What is your experience with this, from either side of the equation?
p.s. Maybe this is a trick question, since this blog tries to be a “no blame culture”???
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