Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Lean is not negotiable

Please check out this article by @SusanCarr (Susan Carr) on Patient Safety and Quality Healthcare, summarizing a recent Lean session at Atrius Health.  I am pleased, but not at all surprised, that my friends and colleagues at Atrius continue to pursue a Lean philosophy and vision.  That approach has already paid huge dividends for the patients and staff at this multi-specialty practice, and the leadership of the organization understands that you don't do Lean, you embed it into the corporate culture for everyone, every day.  Excerpts from Susan's article:

Last week I attended a three-hour presentation given by Lean guru George Koenigsaecker to Atrius Health, an alliance of community-based medical groups in Massachusetts.

In his presentation, Koenigsaecker emphasized the role of leadership in implementing Lean, pointing out that Lean requires adults to learn new attitudes and behaviors—a far more sustained and challenging leadership effort than getting everyone on board with new technology and processes. Success with Lean takes time and involves culture change. That is always challenging, but traditional Lean teaching, beginning with Toyota, did not include leadership training of the sort that interests us today. TPS was taught and fostered through mentorship, without documented leadership principles.

I particularly like the last piece of advice raised by Koenigsaecker, as part of his suggestions to achieve this end:

Lean walk-the-talk.  Practicing Lean as a way of life. It starts to affect your thinking. You are teaching and contributing to the evolution of Lean. Lean is not negotiable; it’s who you are; it’s how you do what you do.

1 comment:

Istvan said...

A big part of the success of Lean thinking in Japan came from their culture. Jacobs and Herbig (1998) assert that Japanese companies make sure that employees understand how their work is translated into the company’s performance. The people responsible for projecting and measuring costs are not narrowly schooled accountants, as is common in the west, but typically have rotated among several departments before taking on a cost-planning job and thus have developed broad perspectives. For problem solving and change management, Japanese companies use a team approach, which involves more horizontal communication across functions and helps stimulate inventions through “cross-fertilization of ideas.” When Taiichi Ohno returned to Japan, the first thing he did was to establish groups (teams) with workers and to encourage them to work together to perform the best way of operations. Employee interaction, focus on communication and cost management are important factors in Japanese companies. Zwikael, Shimizu and Globerson (2005) found that Japanese project managers perform cost estimation and communication planning significantly more frequently than project managers in western countries. Quality is also very important because Japanese companies regard the existence of defects as a matter of shame, reflecting on company honor. Therefore, not only the top management but department heads feel an extremely strong sense of responsibility for the quality of products. These management aspects clearly show that the type of leadership for Lean thinking needs to go beyond simple exchange relations, needs to stimulate intellectually, needs to create learning opportunities, needs vision and emotional bonds and definitely needs to go beyond self-interest. I think this type of leadership would make Lean successful.