Friday, April 25, 2008

Lean speech

For some reason, I have been invited to give lots of speeches and classes lately, mainly on the topic of how to achieve process improvement in hospitals to improve quality and safety. I view this as a bit odd since I am just learning this stuff myself. Maybe people like to hear about the process in mid-stream. Anyway, I enjoy these sessions, getting to know new folks who are interested in the topic, but, as often as not, learning more from them than they do from me.

I tend to accept almost all invitations from colleges, non-profits, civic organizations, and also local businesses -- as my part of the educational mission of BIDMC. If I think they can afford it, I ask for a small honorarium to support programs in our hospital. I also get requests from those companies that organize expensive one- or two-day seminars for business people who want to travel. In those cases, I ask for a very, very large fee -- a large multiple of what they charge their attendees -- and then they usually find someone else!

Today's group was the Lean Educator's Conference, organized jointly by Professor Earll M. Murman at the Educational Network of MIT's Lean Advancement Initiative and another university group called LEAN. LEAN is affiliated with Jim Womack's Lean Enterprise Institute -- Jim is flanked in the picture above by Prof. Joe Sussman of MIT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Prof. Judy Hoffer Gittell of Brandeis University's Heller School. The invitation came because Earll had heard me talk last October at the National Academy of Engineering on "Adapting Process Improvement Techniques to Academic Medical Centers."

Since there may have been repeat listeners, I had to find some new jokes . . .


Anonymous said...

Mr. Levy,
My respect for you continues to grow. This post reveals your dedication to process improvement and demonstrates you possess the spirit required for first rate leadership.

Anonymous said...

As a long time CareGroup employee, I find your comment about continuously learning the business to be fascinating. The changes that you have been able to accomplish since coming on board are extraordinary. Is there any experience or personal trait that you can credit with your ability to make such positive change in a field that was new to you?


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Cathy. I think you give me too much credit. To the extent I have been successful, it has been based mainly on getting out of people's way and letting them do the things they came here to do!

Anonymous said...

I read a funny comment on another blog (tigerhawk is the name of the blog) and that comment was:

"American society has made process as important as outcome, and it is sucking the energy out of us."

I thought is was funny because that is how I feel, sometimes, as a physician practicing in a teaching hospital. There are days where I feel a disconnect between all these external processes (LEAN,TMI,TQI,TQM) and what I actually *do*. It's as if there is a layer of administration that floats above the day to day work of the hospital. Well, that's not fair, but I bet a lot of practicing physicians feel that way on busy days.

I guess what I really mean by the above is that in the different hospitals I've worked at there have been times where I've tried to do everything by the book, and follow the processes, but I'm still at the mercy of too many cases, or too much paperwork, so that the external processes become an additional burden.

How do you suppose we solve this problem ? Is it even a problem? Perhaps I'm not envisioning LEAN correctly?

Madhu D.

Anonymous said...

An absolutely superb question. If the Lean process or any other process becomes that burdensome, it is inherently a failure. The key is to have process improvement integrated into the everyday work flow. Not easy to do! But worth trying.