Podcast #331 – Dr. Eric Dickson, a CEO’s Perspective on Lean and Everyday Innovators

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My guest today for Episode #331 is Eric W. Dickson, MD, MHCM, FACEP, a Professor of Emergency Medicine at UMass Medical School and Chief Executive Officer of the UMass Memorial Health Care system.

You might have heard Dr. Dickson speak in Episode #231 of the podcast, which was audio from the CEO panel at the 2015 Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit. In that audio, Dr. Dickson talked about the beginning of what has been quite an impressive turnaround at UMass Memorial Health Care. By the way, I hope you can join me at this year's Summit, where Dr. Dickson will be a keynote speaker.

I invited him to formally be a guest on the podcast to talk about their progress, and what it means for him to be creating a culture of “Everyday Innovators: Everywhere, Every Day,” which has led to over 65,000 ideas being implemented in five years. This is also a topic he blogs about quite a bit.

In our conversation, we discuss how he found Lean originally “almost out of desperation.” How can we shift from “knowing the answer” to “continuous experiments?” Why is it important that he, as CEO, not be “throwing solutions out” when working with people? Does it help that he works a few shifts a month as an emergency medicine doc? We talk about that and more.

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For a link to this episode, refer people to www.leanblog.org/331.

For earlier episodes of my podcast, visit the main Podcast page, which includes information on how to subscribe via RSS, through Android appsor via Apple Podcasts.  You can also subscribe and listen via Stitcher or Spotify.

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Questions, Topics, and Links:

  • How did you first get exposed to Lean?
    • What was appealing?
    • Was there anything you were skeptical of?
  • When you became CEO at UMass Memorial Health Care (2013), how and why was Lean an important part of your strategy?
    • What happened?
    • What were the results?
    • What were some of the key success factors?
  • Tell us about “Everyday Innovators: Everywhere, Every Day”
    • Why is it important to engage everybody in improvement?
    • What do you do as CEO to create the culture and environment where this can happen?
    • How did you work to spread continuous improvement throughout the system?
    • How uniformly / universally has this been embraced by managers across the organization? What do you do to encourage (or require?) them to lead in a certain Kaizen style?
  • Ideas of the week: https://everydayinnovators.org/category/idea-system/idea-of-the-week/
  • If you were in an elevator with another hospital CEO, what is your elevator pitch for “Why Lean?”
    • If they asked, “What do I need to do as CEO?” (it's a tall building), what would you say?

Blog post about their Kaizen approach:


Video of Dr. Dickson:

Thanks for listening!


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Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation:

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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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