Got Waste? Who Ya Gonna Call?


Last week, I gave the keynote talk at a hospital's twice-yearly lean conference for leaders and staff. As part of the seasonal decorations around the room, they had large ghost cutouts, each labeled with one of the “8 types of waste” (as shown at left).

Somebody made the clever comment that the hospital is “haunted by waste” throughout the year (not just at Halloween!). I made the analogy, in our discussion, that as in the movie The Sixth Sense, some people are better attuned to seeing waste than others, although it's easier to teach people to learn to see waste than it is to teach people to see ghosts!

To emphasize a point I was already planning on making about kaizen and employee engagement, I cobbled together  this image – Wastebusters, ala the classic 80s movie, Ghostbusters.

I asked the room, “who ya gonna call?” and everyone yelled  “Wastebusters!” – it was a fun moment.

But then I asked the room, but who are the Wastebusters? I heard someone in the crowd say “the staff” and she was absolutely correct. I was happy to see the hospital's lean promotion department nodding their heads up and down.

Lean doesn't work (or it's not sustainable) when improvements are made by experts who swoop in, be that an external consultant or an internal person. There's a similar discussion about this on Ron Pereira's blog, related to a hospital.

The role of a coach should be to teach everyone to study their workplace and system to identify waste. Outside eyes are an important part of the mix, but outsiders can't do it all.

Leadership needs to create an environment where people can take action to improve things (or, at times, be a servant leader to get things done for people). That way, everyone can be a Wastebuster, not just once or twice a year, but each and every day.

Happy Halloween!


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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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