Robert De Niro, #Lean Thinker?


The other day, I was reading the latest issue of Esquire magazine, with an interview with the famed actor Robert De Niro.

One thing he said reminded me of Lean and the Toyota Production System:

DeNiro said:

“Sometimes if you have financial restraints, it's a benefit. It forces you to come up with a more creative way.”

This is classic Toyota thinking. The idea of putting “creativity before capital” is a core mindset of the Lean approach.

Toyota, after WWII, didn't have a lot of resources. That financial situation led to the necessity of creativity and different thinking.

Hospitals, today, often ask for “more people, more space, more money” when there is a problem. Maybe this coming era will force hospitals to put creativity before capital? Seattle Children's Hospital has avoided $180 million in capital spending by using Lean methods and process improvement instead of just more money.

More hospitals can follow that lead. And we'll all be better off – patients, staff, and the hospitals.

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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.


  1. I can think of no better example of creativity in healthcare than an Army M.A.S.H unit.

    However, I hope that the quality of future healthcare in the US, now facing a population-driven healthcare bubble, will exceed those units by a mixture of our soon-to-be-found creativity and sufficient capital.

    • With the coming demographic boom – the mix of retiring nurses and other healthcare professionals – we will have increased demand and decreased supply/capacity.

      As Tiny Tim (the Dickens character, not the falsetto singer) said, God help us, every one.

      We will more readily find creativity than capital, I’ll assume.


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