Going Beyond Tools to Transformation

While recently explaining Lean Healthcare concepts, I was told that we were just repackaging old concepts.  I think the individual who made the comment was looking for me to protest.  However, much to their surprise, I agreed.  I shared that Lean Healthcare is built on proven principles that have been around for decades.  Specifically, I referred to Deming’s 14 Points.

To those who aren’t aware of Dr. Deming, he is widely known as the “father of quality”.  He is perhaps best known for the “Plan-Do-Check-Act” cycle popularly named after him.  In Japan, from 1950 onward, he taught top management how to simultaneously improve service and quality as part of the U.S. government’s efforts to rebuild Japan after World War II.  Deming is credited with helping revive Japanese manufacturing and was seen as somewhat of a hero in Japan.  Ironically, in the United States we didn’t widely accept Deming’s philosophies until the end of his life in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

You can find out more about Deming’s 14 Points in this previous post, and here as well.

I believe you will find many parallels between Lean Healthcare principles and Deming’s Points.  I especially like the 14th  point:

“Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation.  The transformation is everybody’s job.”

This concept includes ideas such as:

  • Improve your overall organization by having each person take a step toward quality improvement
  • Analyze each small step, and understand how it fits into the larger picture
  • Use effective change management principles to introduce the new philosophy

So many people that are new to implementing Lean Healthcare focus only on the tools such as Kaizen, 5S, or 3P.   However, by taking some lessons from the past we can learn to look beyond the tools.  We can look for transformation.  Thanks, Dr. Deming!

What is your organization doing to take Lean beyond tools?


Today’s blog was written by Tom Stoffel, Vice President with HPP.

Tom has led healthcare organizations in both the development of high-level Lean Strategies down to hands-on implementation of Lean in a clinical setting.  He has achieved the levels of Certified Lean Specialist from the Business Improvement Group and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), along with being an ASQ Certified Quality Engineer.  Tom is the developer of TGI Healing Healthcare – a brand of Lean Healthcare training tools designed to share lean principles through hands-on learning. 

Tom holds an Engineering Degree from the University of Michigan.

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