Lean Startup Conference Talk – Parallels to Lean Hospital Design


Although I blog most often about Lean healthcare, I know a good number of my blog readers are from the “Lean Startup” world who like reading about general Lean leadership concepts. I hope to meet many of you at Eric Ries' Lean Startup Conference, December 3-4 in San Francisco.

I am participating in the “Ignite” speaking session on Sunday, December 2 – I have five minutes and 20 slides (that automatically advance every 15 seconds) to talk about Lean in healthcare. Yikes.

I've never done an Ignite talk. I've been working feverishly, as it takes way longer to prepare a 5-minute talk than it does to prepare a 50-minute talk. I will be talking about the parallels between the Lean Startup methodology and the “Lean Design” methodology that's being used to design and build better hospitals.

I have my own experiences in two startups… Factory Logic, from 2000-2004, which was very much a “traditional” startup, and KaiNexus, where we use many Lean Startup principles and methods.

The traditional hospital design and construction cycle is very much like traditional “waterfall” software development. Lean Design engages hospital staff and patients very early in the process, in a very collaborative approach. Lean Design, like Lean Startup, recognizes that you can't work forever on the perfect design (or perfect startup product) that you have to start testing with real users and going through many iterative improvement cycles.

While software is very flexible and changeable (at KaiNexus, we push out two new versions of our web/cloud application twice a week or more), a hospital (as “brick and mortar” is harder to change” once built. That's why the Lean Design process includes lots of prototyping with cardboard, taped off areas, and plastic sheeting that forms mocked up rooms and units that staff and patients can test. That way, you go through the “Build, Measure, Learn” cycles (ala Lean Startup) before the space has actually been built. The hospital takes input from “users” and iterates the design before it's built. It's far cheaper to change the hospital when it's a mockup…

Anyway, I hope it will be a thought-provoking five minutes for the attendees. As the last email from the conference said, “Also: booze.” is an added feature of Ignite.

Let me know if you'll be there at Ignite or the main conference.


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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.

  1. Jason Yip says

    Is the Lean Design approach similar to what the Lean Construction Institute advocates?

    1. Mark Graban says

      Yes, in principle and in the major points at least.

  2. Patrick Duffy says

    Mark how do you see LEAN as a tool for achieving ISO9001 certification in hospitals?

    1. Mark Graban says

      I see Lean as a management system and quality improvement system. I’m not sure ISO really helps any more than joint commission accreditation.

  3. […] yesterday for the Lean Startup conference, where I gave my 5-minute Ignite format talk on the parallels between Lean hospital design and Lean startups – Lean is Lean. There will be video available of the talk online and I’ll share it when […]

  4. […] you click through to SlideShare, you can see my slide deck and video from my 5-minute “Ignite” format talk from the recent Lean Startup Conference, hosted by Eric Ries. For those who don’t know […]

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