Detroit Elects a Lean Thinking Mayor? Will it Make a Difference?
I grew up just outside of Detroit, so I'm always pulling for the city to turn things around.
The newly-elected mayor, Mike Duggan, is the former CEO of Detroit Medical Center. Back in 2009, I blogged about a radio commercial for DMC that featured Duggan talking about healthcare quality improvement.
A hat tip goes to my dad for noticing a mention of Lean in a local news article about Duggan taking office:
Q: What are the first five things that a Mike Duggan administration has to do?
A: We're going after police response times. The same way I went after emergency room wait times (at the Detroit Medical Center. Police response times) will be my first effort in the door, and I am a huge believer in lean processing. If you are not excellent at making systems work, you cannot survive at the hospital; it's the heart of the culture. So I want to take a look at why the police don't come, aside from the staffing issue.
The streetlights have got to get fixed. … We've got to get that moving a lot faster. Getting the abandoned houses dealt with so they're taken, not just demolished. I'm going to tear apart this business permitting process system that's driving business investment away so we can get some jobs in here. And then I'm going after the bus system so the buses are fixed and they run on time.
So those are the five things I'm looking at in my first year. And if we're sitting here in 12 months and the buses are starting to run on time and the businesses are starting to open in some of these vacant storefronts, and the streetlights are starting to come on and the police are showing up, and the abandoned houses are starting to get occupied, I think you'll start to see a change in the population loss trends, and that's where we're really trying to get to.
I don't have any first-hand knowledge of Lean improvement work that took place at DMC. They do have a current job posting for a Lean role, at least.
I am encouraged that Duggan is looking at systemic issues and processes that lead to slow response times. Lean is a great way to improve process flow, by reducing delays and other barriers (rather than just asking people to work faster).
I hope being “excellent at making systems work” really is a part of the culture at Detroit Medical Center… and I hope it becomes part of the culture of the city.
Detroit, like General Motors, has a huge systemic challenge of declining market share. GM's market share fell from 50% to under 20%… meaning that the number of retirees (and their pension and healthcare costs) couldn't be supported by the amount of current sales.
The city has seen their population has fallen from almost 2 million to about 700,000, meaning they can't afford the services required to support the same square mileage with 1/3 the population.
GM made some great progress in the factories… but Lean thinking (and Lean methods) in the factories wasn't enough to save the company from bankruptcy, due to the financial problems that were created by that huge decline in market share.
Lean thinking and excellent Lean improvement at the factories wasn't enough to save GM from its shrinking market share. Will fixing some core processes in Detroit really attract people back into the city? Or will this just be window dressing that makes life a bit better for those who remain?
Can Lean thinking save Detroit?