Cartoon: The Workplace “Brain Check Station”


Here's my latest cartoon collaboration with a skilled artist (and medical assistant), Carrie Schurman.

You can see the whole series via this link.

brain check lean blog carrie howarth

How many organizations ask their employees to check their brain at the door?

This certainly happened during my time at General Motors 20 years ago (and it had been happening for decades there). People were literally told to “check their brains at the door” and that they were “hired for their backs and their arms, not their brains.”

In healthcare, the pressure to not speak up, to not make waves, to not point out opportunities for improvement is often more subtle. But, it's just as destructive and just as demoralizing.

I often use this image in my speaking engagements:

brain check ticket

Unlike a “coat check,” our workplaces don't hand out claim tickets… but thinking about that led to today's cartoon collaboration.

Thinking of a “brain check” station leads to an awkward situation… do you tip the attendant at the end of the day?

What happens if you get a “better” brain back at the end of the day?

Well, that sort of misses the point of Kaizen, as we see that EVERYBODY has the ability to improve their own work and their workplace. It doesn't take extremely high intelligence and it doesn't require formal education.

It requires the right leadership, the right culture, and the right environment.


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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.

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