Process Improvement: Lean Isn’t For MePosted on November 5, 2017

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this? If you have been following along with this blog series, you have probably thought that some (or a lot) of what I have been talking about sounds an awful lot like a manufacturing concept called LEAN. That’ because, process improvement is the singular objective of the lean concept. Many people have heard about lean. It isn’t all that new, but it is less common in industries outside of manufacturing. Someone might be tempted to think that lean won’t work for them because they work in healthcare. Or, even if one sees the value of its application to healthcare, they might be intimidated by the idea of lean. Perhaps they have heard people refer to it and use language that seems odd (Lean has its roots in Japanese culture) or its statistical applications seem over the head of many folks with a clinical background. What is the case for doing it anyway? I hope to convince you that by following the steps laid out in this recent series on Process Improvement that you can apply lean principles to your work place within the healthcare setting and achieve excellent results. I intentionally waited until the end of my series to make this case because I didn’t want you to be discouraged by any preconceived notions about lean. Instead, I hope that you have been able to see that there are many simple concepts that you can use to fill your leadership tool box that might help you and your team work to improve processes in your areas. Here at SOMC, a group of key leaders has worked hard to integrate these and many other principles into our areas of influence. We believed that a grass roots initiative of implementation was the best method to achieve cultural buy-in to these concepts. We also intentionally stay away from the work lean as well as the common language used by many organizations to describe lean and its associated processes. Instead, we use the phrase “A Better Way” as a cultural mantra to inspire leaders and teams to pursue excellence in their areas. How can you do it?
  1. Understand your culture. A key to successfully establishing these principles is understanding how best to present them within your workplace. At SOMC, we felt simple and common language were keys to success for our efforts.
  2. Identify champions. Find a team of people who will embody the methodologies of process improvement. Insist that they lead within their areas by walking the talk of process improvement.
  3. Start small. Pick easy projects and get some wins under your belt before tackling broader organizational opportunities.
Next week I will talk about how to sell these ideas to your team directly. 
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