Last month, I saw a headline flying around Twitter about a survey that says a majority of hospital pharmacies are embracing Lean. A statement like that, of course, begs the question of what “embracing” means and we might also ask what “Lean” means in this concept. Hooray, they are doing 5S?
Here is the web page people were linking to, which has a headline that most readers here would agree with:
A company, Kit Health, surveyed 600 pharmacy directors to ask them what they think.
This approach introduces a lot of biases and self-reporting error into the mix. There's no verification (which would be hard to do)… so we'll ask people.
You can imagine how surprised we were that 78% of the 600 hospital pharmacies surveyed were using Lean Management in select areas and 37% consider it part of their core philosophy.
A number like 78% is nice to put into a headline:
“78% of pharmacies now using Lean Management!”
Again, what does “using Lean Management” mean? They've done a value stream map? Or, they've completely transformed their culture… or points in between.
The “in select areas” is a red flag that the pharmacy directors, while well intended, maybe aren't telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (or it means the 78% headlines should be toned down). The headline might say:
“78% of pharmacies sort of use Lean Management where it doesn't challenge existing practices too much”
“78% of pharmacies have told employees to ‘standardize' their work”
“78% of pharmacies have a Kanban system for a few supplies that never worked that well”
The surveyors were also surprised, probably, about the 37% number. What does “it's part of our core philosophy mean?”
People often hear a little bit about Lean and they then say things like, “Oh that Lean stuff… that's just the way we've always done things around here.”
It's easy to overstate “how Lean you are” (however you would measure that).
There's a bias and a peer pressure, when asked a question about Lean, to say “Oh yeah, we do that.” It's easy to say. The surveyor can't prove you wrong.
What surprises me is that 5.62% of attendees said they don't know what Lean is. They were honest enough to admit it.
Surveys like this might drive traffic to a web site, but what do they really tell us? Nothing, really.
Is a pharmacy director (or a hospital CEO) going to be curious about Lean because it's popular or trendy? If that's the reason they embraced Lean, I'd bet that correlates with giving up on Lean very quickly when some trendy new thing comes around.
Instead of thinking about numbers and surveys, we should get back to work on our own departments and hospitals.
Maybe I shouldn't have even written about this. Sorry… back to work.
Do you believe the results of the survey? Am I being too cynical? How do you think your pharmacy would honest rate in that scale of whether they are really using Lean methods or if they've really baked it into their “core philosophy?”
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