If you're a gambler and you take my post title literally, you might be thinking, “The odds? The odds are 1 in 7000, or 0.000142857143.” OK, you probably weren't thinking that many significant digits, but what's the point of 1 in 7000? Those aren't the odds of my Northwestern Wildcats men's basketball team winning the NCAA tournament (if we even get in this year, which would be the first time ever).
I'm talking about the conversations I've had recently with Lean or Process Improvement professionals at recent conferences or via email who lament, “I'm just one out of 5,000” or “I'm the only one in our organization of 7,000” people. How Lean is that organization going to get with a sole Lean coach or practitioner?
The lament of “I'm just one person” usually comes with:
- Feeling stretched too thin (supporting too many departments or having to educate or coach too many people)
- Wondering where the organizational support for Lean is after they were hired
- Feeling like the weight of the world is on their shoulders
- Not thinking any other colleagues or help were going to be coming their way
One person was embedded in a department and hospital leadership was pressuring that individual to fix the entire systemic patient flow on their own, without good support from the departmental directors or senior leadership. It's completely unrealistic to think you can go hire a single expert who is going to magically fix a broad interconnected system of departmental silos.
I've seen a lot of hospitals that have a team of 5 to 10 Lean and/or P.I. and/or Six Sigma people to serve as trainers and internal coaches. ThedaCare has (unless this has changed) about 30 “facilitators” who work in a central group to help run events and coach others in the department. More importantly, ThedaCare is in the class of organizations that are educating all leaders and staff so that the Lean transformation involves everybody (including senior leadership). These organizations aren't expecting one or a small number of people to be super heroes.
You have to start somewhere… hopefully the solo Lean person is just the starting point. But, if you've been hired in and you're being left alone on an island, does this reflect unrealistic expectations on the part of the hiring organization? What are the odds these organizations can be successful with one person?
Is there is mistaken belief that the COO can say “we are doing Lean” (groan) because they have hired one person?
Hiring a Lean professional, one person, isn't like piloting a new piece of equipment. Let's say your organization wants to try some new style of patient bed. It's very reasonable (and preferred) to buy one and test it out before taking a larger investment. But does the same idea apply to a Lean professional? I think not. What is the minimum critical mass to be able to make a difference to help “prove out” that Lean is something to which the senior leaders should make a larger commitment?
What do you see taking place out there, whether it's healthcare or other industries. How common is this solo person phenomenon? Are you a solo Lean person in your organization? Please leave a comment (and remember, you can do so anonymously).
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