I often get asked a question along the lines of “So, what exactly do you do?”
It's not exactly the same as this classic “Office Space” scene, but it's not too far off in spirit:
If people know me as a blogger, or a podcaster, or a social media person, they're often trying to find a polite way to ask, “So, how do you make money?” Because you don't make money from blogging, podcasting, and tweeting. Most authors don't make much money from books. And that's fine. Sometimes we do things because of intrinsic motivation – they're fun, interesting ways to learn and engage with others.
That said, I'm not an independently-wealthy Lean gadfly. I work. I work a lot.
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Shifting Away from Traditional Full-Time Jobs
I worked in traditional full-time jobs my entire career up until 2009. That year, I left ValuMetrix Services (then part of Johnson & Johnson) and took a role with the Lean Enterprise Institute, working mostly through the organization now known as Catalysis. I remain a “faculty member” for both organizations, which means I occasionally teach workshops under their banner (as I'll be doing for Catalysis in February and at the Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit in June – my “Better Metrics” workshop).
In 2010, I started doing independent consulting work through my own company while still working half-time for Catalysis. In 2011, I left Catalysis and went full time on my own, sometimes partnering with or subcontracting with larger consulting groups.
In June of 2011, I joined up with the two co-founders of what was then an early-stage startup called KaiNexus, as they were just going to market with their software. Here is my blog post about joining KaiNexus part-time:
Mark Graban: Announcement on My Future Professional Direction (2011)
Over the past 6.5 years, the company has grown and my role has evolved. Initially, Greg Jacobson, MD (a co-founder and CEO) and I did our best to stumble our way through marketing and selling enterprise software, miraculously finding some early-adopter customers and then doing our best to support them.
Thankfully, we have been able to hire some amazing, experienced professionals over the years – people who are experts in marketing, sales, and customer support. As Greg often says, he and our other co-founder Matt have hired people who are better at their jobs than we could have ever been.
Our team is now 15 strong, including me… here is a photo from last week at the Toyota plant in San Antonio:
The @KaiNexus team enjoyed the chance to tour the Toyota truck plant in San Antonio on Wednesday. Thanks! #Lean pic.twitter.com/JuJrcGwlvo
— Mark Graban (@MarkGraban) January 19, 2018
As my role and title has evolved over the years, I've never had a full-time role with KaiNexus. In the past few years, I've basically served as an advisor to the company (and to some customers) on Lean and continuous improvement topics. I also do various things like organize and host webinars and participate in our annual User Conference.
Most recently, my title has been “VP of Improvement and Innovation Services.” That sounds like a full-time role, which it's not. I'm not putting in the same full-time work as our other VPs. For a number of reasons, we've decided to just call me a “Senior Advisor.”
As I've said for years, my role being part-time doesn't mean I have anything less than full belief in our company, its purpose, our solutions, and our team. I'm honored to still be associated with such a great group.
While I will still be doing independent professional speaking and consulting as before, I am very excited to announce a new affiliation with a healthcare consulting group, Value Capture.
Here is their press release:
“SHINGO AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR AND LEAN HEALTHCARE AUTHORITY MARK GRABAN PARTNERS WITH VALUE CAPTURE“
I've long admired their founder and current non-executive chairman, Paul O'Neill, who is the former CEO of Alcoa and former U.S. Treasury Secretary.
Here is my podcast with Secretary O'Neill from 2011:
I'm honored to be affiliated with the Value Capture team. I'm happy to share values and mission I share with them. Lean leadership is a pathway to improved patient safety and staff safety, along with other benefits.
I'm thrilled and honored that my photo is next to Secretary O'Neill's (through alphabetical order, that's all):
I'm very happy to be reunited with two of my former colleagues from my days at ValuMetrix Services, including one who I get to work with closely with a client on the east coast. I'm looking forward to the work we'll be doing, as we work with a client that is truly trying to make a difference.
So, that's the update….
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A long and winding road, to be sure. And not unusual for those of us who do Lean for a living. Mark, you have been a pioneer and an advocate of Lean (particularly in healthcare) for many years. You have preached the gospel of Lean to great success. May you continue to do so to help the healthcare community continuously improve.
Thanks, Dean. I don’t know about pioneer, but I have tried to be a helpful advocate. I appreciate your help, support, and friendship along the way.
Thanks. And my go-to answer for “what do you do?’ is I help people make their jobs easier and better. What industry am I in? Depends on the day of the week or the client I’m working with.
It does make it tough to fill out surveys, though, when our jobs are not listed and we have to go with “other”.
Ha ha, the “who do you work for?” question is different than the “what would you say… you do here?” question.
I like to say, “I help people improve” or “I teach and coach them to improve things that matter to them and their customers (or patients).”