Lean Healthcare Study Tour – Join Me in November 2014


fujiYou might remember that I partnered with Kaizen Institute about two years ago to do their first “Lean Healthcare Study Tour” to Japan. I blogged a bit about the last trip last week.

It was a great learning experience, as a group of healthcare leaders and Lean practitioners from around the world spent a week with a deep dive into Lean culture (and Japanese culture, which are not always the same thing).

We visited Toyota, another great manufacturing facility, two hospitals, and other sites.

We had amazing discussions amongst the attendees, including participants from North America and across Europe.

Everything was organized for us, taken care of and led brilliantly by bi-lingual guides who know Japan and Lean. If it's your first visit, having this sort of expert guidance is very helpful.

There were MANY valuable lessons and ideas to bring home and to put into practice when we got home.

This year, I'm told that Kaizen Institute has new tour sites lined up, which I'm assuming (and will confirm) again includes Toyota and, this time, some new organizations and tours.

The trip is scheduled for the week of November 17, 2014. We are still working out details, but since this would be my second trip, the idea is that I'll play more of a co-facilitation role (helping people understand the factories and lead the Lean discussions), while other Kaizen Institute staff from Japan will play a huge (and important role) with logistics, translation, etc.

If you're the least bit interested in participating and would like to learn more details, please contact me or visit www.JapanLeanTrip.com.

A picture from our last tour… a nurse with her supply bag (a product of 5S) around her waste waist and a “do not disturb” sign for medication rounds (a form of error proofing).

tour japan


Some of my blog posts about the 2012 trip:

Tweets from Japan, Day 1

A Japanese Hospital CEO on Kaizen, Innovation & Breakthrough

Japan Tour Reflections: Taking Home Lean Artifacts or Lean Thinking?

Japan Trip: Going to Gemba and Seeing 5S at a Japanese Hospital

A Small Batch of Bread, Other Random Japan Pictures


I hope you'll join us.


To learn more about the trip, please contact me.

request more info


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  1. Chris says

    Right above the picture of the nurse you have the following text…

    A picture from our last tour… a nurse with her supply bag (a product of 5S) around her waste and a “do not disturb” sign for medication rounds (a form of error proofing).

    I know you have waste on the brain as a Lean consultant, but this one should be waist.

    How is the sign supposed to help error proof the medication rounds? I can see that other employees would recognize the need to leave a nurse with the sign on alone to complete their rounds, but patients might not understand and interupt them.

    1. Mark Graban says

      Thanks for pulling the andon cord and pointing out the defect, Chris. I wish I could blame auto-correct, but that wouldn’t be true and blaming isn’t a Lean behavior anyway.

      The signs are not the best form of error proofing possible. The signs are intended to create an “interruption-free zone” where interruptions and distractions are at least minimized. Generally, the interruptions would come doctors or other nurses out in the unit… I don’t think the sign is something that should be worn into patient rooms… patient needs come first. If they have an urgent need, they shouldn’t be afraid to “interrupt.”

  2. Mark Graban says

    Here is a nice blog post from Virginia Mason Medical Center about traveling to Japan:

    Lessons from Japan: Value of deep dive into TPS

    “It was a life changing experience. It was one of the most interesting things I have done in my 37 years in this business.” – Bob Norton

    It’s also great to hear that VMMC is incredibly transparent when people from other health systems are around:

    As a Virginia Mason outsider at the time (she was working for a different health care organization), Mukavitz was “struck by the unbelievable transparency of the Virginia Mason team,” she recalls. “There was another organization from the UK on the trip, so you had teams from two organizations outside Virginia Mason, and the transparency displayed by Virginia Mason with us outsiders in the room was incredible. To me, that really highlighted that their journey was truly focused on improvement and not on looking good.”

    Great to see.

  3. Mark Graban says

    Good news is that this trip is definitely ON.

    We have 12 people formally registered so far an a few spots left.

    So, look forward to blog posts about the trip in November and beyond.

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