Confused (or Confusing) #Lean Healthcare Job Postings


When an organization is barely into their “Lean journey” (or whatever they might call it), one challenge is that the leaders (or HR) don't really know what they want or need in candidates for positions in process improvement, operational excellence, or whatever they call it.

There are times when organizations have asked me for input on some of their job postings, and I appreciate. There are other instances where I've tried to give friendly feedback to an organization and it fell on deaf ears.

I remember one time when a hospital wanted somebody for a process improvement role who had, among other credentials, Design for Six Sigma (DFSS). That's a very specialized skill set. That's like required a cardiology fellowship for candidates to be general practitioners in a family medicine practice. It's not bad knowledge, but it's overkill (and the job's pay scale might not be up to what a specialist would merit).

I've made two posts on LinkedIn recently about two job posts that had me scratching my head.

Job Posting #1

This healthcare job posting shows a lot of confusion.

The title says they want “LEAN” for “process improvement.” I'm not sure why they made Lean into an acronym (it's not).

The first sentence of the posting calls for a “six sigma black belt.” Six Sigma is not the same thing as “LEAN.”

The job post says candidate will help improve “by using LSS methodologies.” Oh, now they're combining Lean and Six Sigma into “Lean Six Sigma.”.

You'd think they'd then want a “Lean Six Sigma Black Belt” then (since that's a different belt certification than Six Sigma alone).

I'm not knocking Six Sigma. I'm questioning the hospital's confusion over what skillset they're looking to hire.

Here's my big concern about requiring or strongly preferring a “belt” certification for process improvement jobs: If an experienced Toyota person in Plano wanted to retire and take this healthcare job, they'd be screened out for not being a “Six Sigma black belt.”

And you can't be a smoker if you want to work there. But good luck. As somebody commented on LinkedIn, a job like that might drive you to drink and smoke. Here is that LinkedIn post with the comments from people.

There were many interesting comments, but here are a few.

Andre DeMerchant, a former Toyota guy a know and respect, said:

Holy cow, this is like the latest installment of ‘buzzword bingo'!   And this is why there is such fertile ground for the growth of ‘consultants' who have no business teaching Lean anything: the clients often don't know what they're asking for.

Others thanked me for calling this sort of thing out, but one person posted a contrary view:

I think we're looking at this the wrong way. It's hard to criticize a company for wanting to have some bar they can use to screen out the hundreds of candidates they get. And our industry / career path isn't really that common or well known. I've not worked many places that are purists for any methodology so it's again hard to blame them for mixing up terms. Besides, making fun of a group for not using the technical terms correctly sounds really, really elitist and not a good way to advance our cause.

I don't think I'm “making fun.” I think I'm pointing out some serious issues, whether doing so ends up being helpful or not.

I replied:

Is “six sigma black belt” the proper bar for doing “Lean?”

Bo wrote:

Man great points Mark. The confusion is a real. I think this is due in part to employers who want the benefits of Lean and/or Six Sigma without knowing exactly what they want (strategically and tactically) and therefore don't know what they should be looking for in terms of a candidate. Don't get me wrong, as you know I am a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and I worked very hard to obtain it. However, employers would be wise to seek out candidates with understanding and practical application of the principles taught by by these disciplines over someone who simply had a certification. I can get you a belt, can you do the job? That is what's most important in my opinion.

Healthcare is behind the curve when it comes to understanding performance Improvement holistically and therefore the obvious shortcut seems to be hire a bunch of belts, hang a sign on the door and call it done. We of course understand there's much more required than that.

Job Posting #2

I saw another “confused” (or confusing) sounding healthcare process improvement job posting, which I again shared on LinkedIn.

This hospital wants a “proven and experienced” Lean Six Sigma person… but they also specify that the candidate should have “1 to 3 years of experience.”

And they prefer an LSS Black Belt. So do they want “experienced” or not? I would expect a Black Belt to have more than one to three years of experience.

I wonder if the salary scale is only appropriate for somebody at a lower experience range then? Will they find a good fit?

Some of the comments:

Robert wrote:

That is because many MBA programs are bundling in LSSBB into their curriculum so you very well could have someone recently graduated with an LSSBB. Additionally there are plenty of inexpensive online programs that grant BBs, unfortunate there is no governing body to ensure a level of experience and competency.

My reply was:

Did the person who passed a test during an MBA program likely completed an impactful certification project that was coached by a Master Black Belt? I'm skeptical of Lean or Six Sigma being turned into a solely academic exercise.

Here the comment of the week:

Wanted: Six sigma lean agile scrum master MBA type person for junior money. Must be able to fix everything using only magic and duct tape.

Yvan, from Quebec, wrote:

I see a lot of those in HC here in QC… wages are 40-70K$ for “lean experts”. Wonder why Lean doesn't work… 😉

Dr. Jody Crane (a previous podcast guest of mine) wrote:

Lexus for the price of a Yugo! Hope you're doing well, Mark.

Amber wrote:

Ugh, I saw several of these when job hunting last year.  In Portland OR, you want a Black Belt with experience, need them to build a program – and the salary tops out at $75k.

The job posting doesn't show a salary range. Wanting 1 to 3 years of experience would suggest they don't want to pay much?

A Previous Blog Post

You might recall this recent blog post from Sam Selay, who shared some challenges and frustrations that led him to drop out of a Lean healthcare job search:

A Lean Healthcare Job Interview Process: Thoughts and Reflections

What can we do to help educate hospitals on this?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.



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