Lean in Sweden: Tools < Thinking
I had an incredible visit to a hospital in Stockholm yesterday, to walk the “gemba” (the actual workplace) to see their lean improvement efforts first hand. I'll share some details and highlights over time here on the blog.
One highlight was a portion of large educational poster that was hung in the laboratory hallway.
I love the mathematical representation that thinking is more powerful than tools. I saw a lot of evidence of Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) improvement processes in the lab and different inpatient units around the hospital. I think the math is correct and I'll add that tools > 0. Tools have some value, but only in context of lean thinking and the lean management philosophy. Tools aren't value-less, but thinking is better. I know I risk raising the ire of those who run around saying tools have zero value – I'll be called a “toolhead” without those people reading my message that tools alone are useless. Tools with lean thinking can be quite helpful.
Implementing a method like 5S runs the risk of being tools driven. If we are “implementing 5S,” we run the risk of losing sight of our purpose. We should be focused not on the tool, but instead on improving patient care, reducing delays, and preventing errors. If 5S helps meet those goals, if 5S is an effective countermeasure and an improvement to the system, then great.
If we are blindly implementing a tool and, say, doing things like putting tape around pens in our desk drawer, then that sounds more like what the poster calls “Pretend LEAN.” That's another way of explaining my term of “Lean As Misguidedly Executed,” or “L.A.M.E.”