I've written before about the subject of hospitals “flexing” nurses and employees. I've criticized flexing (or the practice of sending employees home early because patient census is low) and I've pointed out that it's not keeping with “Lean” principles to “save money” by sending people home early.
See these posts:
Lets compare hospital practices (whether driven by traditional cost cutting mindsets or a misunderstanding of Lean) with how Toyota operates.
Toyota has a long track record of not relying on layoffs to save money — over the long term or on a daily basis. During long production slowdowns (due to the recession or the Japan tsunami), Toyota plants don't lay workers off.
Toyota plants pay workers to do things like training and process improvement projects (ala “Kaizen”). Toyota isn't just paying people to be nice or respectful, they investing in their future. It's Principle #1 of “The Toyota Way” that says to make decisions for the long term, even at the expense of the short term.
Two weeks ago, there were some pretty bad storms in San Antonio. See this news story:
A storm ripped part of the roof off of the factory.
— KABB FOX 29 (@KABBFOX29) May 18, 2016
From the article:
“Two days after the storm, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas reported that both of the plants two shifts will remain in a non-production capacity.”
That's a fancy way of saying, “We aren't building any trucks.”
Hospitals often say they are “forced” to send staff home early when there aren't as many patients as expected. Is Toyota “forced” to send employees home or keep them home? Of course not — it's a choice!
And Toyota chooses to have people come to work and they are paid for non-production activities. Hospitals could choose to do the same!
“Although production is idle, plant employees are being given options to come to work, take personal time off or take the day off unpaid.
The plant's cafeteria is not operation but those that report to work are being asked to plan accordingly and are being given projects, tasks and training.”
It's an investment in future quality and future productivity. It's also an investment in employee morale, realizing that the company feels responsible to provide a full paycheck.
If hospitals want to “implement Lean,” they need to do more to learn lessons like this one.
Photo courtesy of Toyota