What I’m Reading 12/30/13: GM’s CEO, Human Error, Costing, and Really Deep Sleepers


To close out the year 2013, I once again need to close some browser tabs that are full of things that I was maybe going to write about, but don't merit a full post. So, the latest in my occasional “What I'm Reading” series:

New York State Hospital Data Exposes Big Markups, and Odd Bargains (NY Times): The state of New York has made data available that shows the gap between what it “costs” a hospital to provide care and the price that's actually charged to the payer (and the inconsistencies across the state). I'm not so certain most hospitals have cost accounting methods that really create an accurate view of what the cost (direct cost and overhead) of a certain procedure is for a particular patient. This is hard to do (allocating overhead). I think transparency can only help, but hospitals lamely argue that releasing such data only “confuses” people.

GM's new CEO Mary Barra is no ‘car girl' (USA Today): It's great to see a woman as CEO, but I'm more excited that Barra is an engineer. You might be recall my podcast interview with former GM product chief Bob Lutz, who talked about the importance of “car guys” (of either gender) over “bean counters.” Her father was a UAW tradesperson, so she's reportedly down to earth. She needs to change the culture quite a bit, but she's a GM lifer. Either way, I think GM has been making some great products lately, they are no longer “Government Motors” and I wish her and my former employer (1995-1997) all the best.

B.C. lab hopes to stamp out human error (Vancouver Sun): If 70% of all lab errors occur BEFORE testing (mislabeling, etc.), it's interesting that so much attention is paid to reducing errors during the testing process itself (the source of just 10% of errors). I'm all for people getting opportunities (and new technologies) that allow them to practice and do their work better. But, the key to eliminating most “human error” is improving systems and processes. I've helped a lot of labs and the problem is almost always bad processes, not bad people.

Target Online: A Beginner's Guide to Lean: Lean Lessons Learned in 2013 (AME): Mark Doman shares some lessons learned from people he coached in 2013, folks who were new to Lean. It's especially worth reinforcing the need to “Talk to the frontline employees (even if some are already on the team) at every stage of your lean workout” instead of relying just on experts, managers, and those being trained in the Lean process. Look for facts, communicate well, and focus first on what he calls “nickel fixes” instead of big expensive solutions. Putting creativity before capital!

Passenger wakes up alone on locked plane (USA Today): A passenger was apparently sleeping REALLY well on a flight… and he got left inside the locked up plane after landing! “Somehow the flight crew did not notice the sleeping Wagner and left him on board as they locked up the plane, the ABC affiliate KTRK reports.” This seems like an opportunity for a new checklist to prevent this error in the future?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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