Yesterday was hard work, because we stepped out of "supposedly" and into "Okay, what CAN we accomplish in 3-6 months?" Because Lean isn't about massive centralized re-engineering, it's about small practical improvements - continuously.
Today we took the results of that work and honed it down to small projects that the hospital will actually pursue. (I didn't realize that when the week started.) The day's byword was "synchronize," not in the time-sync sense, but in the sense of getting aligned and coordinated, rowing in a common direction.
We brought together our different learnings from the week into an action plan that fits into the "house of lean" diagram we started with on Monday. I didn't grab a snapshot of it then, but here's today's hand-drawn reconstruction. See legend below.
The foundation has three layers:
- Stability: You cannot improve steadily without a stable process. So, a lot of work goes into stabilizing how work is done. In any industry including healthcare this can require giving up a certain amount of craftsmanship - but in my view the predictable, repeatable part of the work is what gets stabilized, and craftsmanship moves out onto the frontiers, where it's most needed.
- Standardization: As I described yesterday, this is about having a shared, continuously improved, agreed approach to the parts of the work that can be standardized.
- "Kaizen mindset": Kaizen is continuous small improvements: every day do something a little bit better.
- Flow: a hallmark of Lean is the idea that inventory and uneven workflow are wasteful. When MIT Sloan's Mike Cusumano went to Japan in the 1980s to study Japan's car makers, he found that although they were all good, Toyota produced the same number of cars with half the floor space and half the people. That's because they managed every aspect of the process to produce steady flow.
Yes, inventory and uneven workload can be managed to a minimal state. And when that happens, all kinds of wasteful workarounds disappear.
- Quality at the Source ("Jidoka"): in Lean it's absolute folly to achieve quality by manufacturing defective things and then spending labor to find the defects (inspection) and weed them out. Make everything in a quality fashion the first time.
This week I learned that a vast amount of time on a hospital floor is spent re-checking things because errors are so costly. To me, as someone from industry, this gives the lie to any healthcare executive who takes an arrogant position because of the supposed vast intellect of people in healthcare. I know healthcare executives are smart, but if they're not working on improving quality, they're guilty of ignoring existing knowledge from other disciplines. That's not scientific.
There's another aspect - the center of this house - that doesn't appear in many diagrams of the "House of Lean," but was prominently taught to us today: human development. All lean practitioners talk about "respect for people" or "respect for humanity," but not everyone emphasizes it in this way, as the center of the House. The other day Lean Hospitals author Mark Graban described it to me as respect for human potential, and indeed one of the 8 forms of waste we were taught is "Unused Human Talent."
So you can imagine how pleased I was to be a voice of the patient in this exercise. Because as the week went on, I saw that when we clear out the clutter that keeps clinicians from doing their job, we make it easier for them to make the most of their talent. And by empowering patients and families to be active (participatory medicine), we make the most of their talent too.
What a thrill to be involved in this week. Thanks so much to Beth Israel Deaconess for inviting me and helping to make it possible.