Yesterday, our Lean Healthcare tour of Japan (with Kaizen Institute) took us to our second hospital, this time in Tokyo. The CEO, Shuhei Iida, MD, pictured at left, spent a lot of time with us, talking generally about their “MQI” program – or Medical Quality Improvement. I suggest checking out their website using Google Chrome (which will translate it) or use the Google Translate service.
Dr. Iida talked about the connections between “Kaizen” (small improvements) and innovation (larger improvements) and how, together, they lead to breakthroughs. He also talked about how one is absolutely necessary for the other to occur.
Dr. Iida has been the CEO for just over 20 years and his hospital receives visitors from around the world, including Europe and Africa. They were on the verge of bankruptcy when he took the job in 1991 and they are now “in the black” and had the money to build a new hospital, while most Japanese hospitals are losing money today, he said.
Their annual “theme” for MQI activities is “think for yourself and take action.” Dr. Iida stated that it's easy for an organization to talk about change and innovation, but harder to do.
Dr. Iida said, multiple times, that Kaizen (small change) alone won't transform the hospital or lead to breakthroughs. But, he emphasized that:
“if you keep doing Kaizen, you will get innovation.”
People love talking about “innovation” as a goal (I would add it's a “sexier” concept than continuous incremental improvement, if you will.)
Dr. Iida said that you don't plan to innovate — it happens by accident or chance, not by design.
“As you do Kaizen, you increase your chance of innovation, as you stumble into things. As you keep doing Kaizen, you also look for big jumps.”
The final thought on Kaizen was that “it is not just about improving operations, but also breaking down walls and building a better place.”
Part of building a better place is Dr. Iida's view that “we are not just interested in improving processes, but also developing people.”
Update: This idea of being a “development company” is something I blogged about after a later trip to Japan in 2018:
On this topic, there's an amazing video that was made last night by two Belgian tour members and a member of the tour organizing team. They made this in a bar, using beer coasters, at about 11 pm and midnight last night. It's brilliant. See their blog post about the video and follow them on Twitter:
p.s. You can read a detailed blog post about the first hospital that we visited and their 5S program – written by Thomas and Gert.