Are you aware of or part of an organization that makes every problem a project? Does that turn into an endless series of meetings where the problem is discussed, data integrity and sources are questioned, and after 6 months or more, no solution has been implemented? Some even use a Lean approach in these sessions and still fail to implement solutions. Lots of organizations, including those in healthcare, have fallen victim to this situation. I see many clients who think that once a project is completed, gains will automatically be sustained. Most are surprised and disappointed when performance reverts back.


What is missing? An effective management system. For those of use that are Lean practitioners, we call it a Lean Management System. What does that mean?

Lean management is an approach to running an organization that supports the concept of continuous improvement, a long-term approach to work that systematically seeks to achieve small, incremental changes in processes in order to improve efficiency and quality. It is the mechanism to develop, sustain, and improve these changes over time.people_photo

In deploying a lean management system, leaders in an organization must first understand it is their responsibility to enable front line staff to identify and solve their own problems without interference. They must provide a non-punitive environment for staff to expose and work on problems, be present to coach and mentor staff, and remove barriers to implementing solutions. Leaders must engage staff in discussing the measurements of success and course correcting in real time when performance does not meet goal.

Once a Lean Management System is implemented, I have personally seen a client’s Emergency Department achieve door-to-doc time under 30 minutes and left without being seen less than 1%. I have also witnessed a client struggling with length of stay above 5 days drive it down to 3.8 days.

By implementing a Lean Management System, you are, in effect, creating an army of problem solvers who improve processes as a part of their daily work. This method is a different way of leading, but in the end, the organization will be able to achieve performance once thought impossible.


Dan Littlefield, Director for Lean Healthcare and Process Improvement at HPP Today’s blog was written by Dan Littlefield, Consulting Director.

Dan has 30 years of healthcare experience in many clinical and leadership roles. He leads Lean transformation and process improvement consulting engagements for Vizient. His prior experience includes serving as a senior consultant and pharmacy services leader for ValuMetrix Services deploying Lean in hospitals across numerous healthcare disciplines including Imaging, Laboratory, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Physician Offices, successfully delivering process improvements and bottom-line results.

He began his healthcare career in retail pharmacy. As a nuclear pharmacist, he was responsible for providing radiopharmaceuticals and consulting services to physicians and hospitals. He advanced to pharmacy manager and then to director of operations, responsible for 13 facilities and 300 employees as well as financial performance. He also enjoys teaching lean concepts and has been a featured speaker at a variety of healthcare industry events. Dan holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Louisiana and a Specialty Certification in Nuclear Pharmacy from Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Share This
Like what you see? Receive our blog posts by email!

Like what you see? Receive our blog posts by email!

Sent right to your inbox on Tuesdays!

You have successfully subscribed! Look for our email on Tuesday!