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What People Think a Lean Healthcare Consultant Does


Some of you might be familiar with the internet meme, spreading on Facebook especially, about “what people think of my profession” (as described in this Washington Post blog post). For example, see “what a contemporary artist does.” It's all a bit tongue in cheek and it's good fun.

Here is my take on how people view what a Lean Healthcare Consultant does (click for larger view):

Now, they say if you have to explain the joke, then it isn't much of a joke… but my thoughts behind the six images:

  • Friends: When people hear about “lean,” they often think it's a diet or exercise program
  • Mom: This is just supposed to represent the general view that a mom might have, exaggerating their kid's work in their own mind (I'm not saying my mom thinks I'm scrubbing into surgery).
  • Doctors: Yeah, I wear karate gear and a black belt, spouting lots of Japanese terms.
  • Executives: Now, not all execs think I'm there to “cut heads.” That's certainly not what I do (see my article on the “no layoffs due to Lean” policies). Nurses and front-line staff might also be afraid I'd be there to cut heads.
  • Me: Going with the meme, this is supposed to represent one's inflated view of what they do (a “Lean as superman” image that I created to mock the idea that “Lean is here to save the day” as if it's an easy answer and a quick fix.
  • Really do:  This is a picture I took visiting a team that was creating the most complex value stream maps I've ever seen (maybe too complex).

What images would you choose for different stakeholder groups?

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent book is the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus. He is currently writing his next book, tentatively titled Measures of Success.

  1. Isaac Mitchell says


    I was thinking about this last night when I was checking out my friend’s Facebook posts. This is what I came up with.

    *Friends: Labor Reduction Expert. You Tube “the bobs from office space”
    *Mom: A big question mark “?”. She probably tells people I am a senior executive big wig at a hospital.
    *Doctors/Nurse: Picture of a patient going down a dirty manufacturing line.
    *Executives: “Trim the Fat”, Look for the big cost savings not small daily improvements.
    *Me: I like your picture. Trying the save healthcare!
    *Really do: Picture of a school teacher.

    1. Kim says

      Mark – I really like your friends, doctors/nurse, and executive descriptions. So will you create a picture of this to be part 2 of the lean healthcare consultant description?

  2. Nick says

    What about “What patients think I do?” I’m sure there are a variety of views on healthcare consultants from the patient’s perspective.

  3. Nick says

    Well, if we are doing our jobs right, perhaps an angel with a halo? Or how about Neo from The Matrix with some sunglasses on. They see the benefits and receive better care, but don’t know who we are or how we helped. I think it really depends on the interactions we have with the patients.

  4. Joye Kuehn says

    I would add a category called “what my boss thinks I do”. Pick a Dilbert frame with the boss’s take on Lean and call it good.

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