With the rapid improvements that often result from Kaizen Events, organizations can easily fall into a trap of looking at Lean Healthcare as a “quick fix”. Those quick results are a necessary component of the Kaizen process; however, Kaizen Events are only part of a true “transformation”. For true sustainability and transformation to occur, improvements must be made at three key levels of the organization: strategic, Value Stream, and daily work.

From a strategic perspective, there is a process to adopting Lean as the primary operating methodology within an organization. We work closely with leadership teams within an organization from the onset of a transformation activity to coach on Lean Thinking. Developing Lean Leadership skills requires time and experience. 

Understanding Value Streams are an important element for deployment of Lean Tools. As Lean practitioners, we map value streams and leverage Lean tools to identify and eliminate waste. As mentioned earlier, rapid results are one outcome from improvement at this level. However, there are additional aspects of the transformation process that take place during a Kaizen Event as front line workers, staff, and physicians begin to look at their work differently. They begin to change their long-held beliefs about their work through this experience, which leads to new actions. These new actions are necessary to deliver and sustain improved outcomes.

For true continuous improvement, workers must begin to leverage Lean Healthcare tools and waste reduction efforts into the problems that occur every day. We typically see this transformation occur more quickly in staff and leaders who are exposed to Lean Thinking during Kaizen Events. However, we are often limited in the number of people who can be directly involved in events during the early phases of a transformation effort. By training everyone in an organization in Lean Thinking, we will help those not yet involved in a Kaizen Event begin to identify and eliminate waste, as well as support the Kaizen Event process changes.

Many groups would be content to leverage Lean by simply using the recipe approach – a dash of Kaizen Events, a sprinkle of metrics, a pinch of employee involvement. However, working only at the Value Stream Level will short circuit the improvement effort. At HPP we feel strongly that two key elements to the sustainability efforts at any organization implementing Lean are:

  1. Strategic leadership sessions where an organization can create alignment around a Lean vision.
  2. Ongoing Lean training for ALL staff, providers, and leadership.  We have found the use of our simulation-based Lean Healthcare training methods (ex. HPP’s Healing Healthcare™ Pharmacy Simulation or Job Instruction Simulation) help to better explain Lean Healthcare methodolgies and Lean Tools as they apply specifically to healthcare. Whether you use these methods or others, what is important is that you continuously train staff in how to lead in a Lean system and/or how apply the principles to their daily work.

This week’s article was written by Tom Stoffel, a director & consultant for HPP. Before joining HPP, Tom served as President of Transformation Group, Inc,. Tom developed TGI Healing Healthcare – a brand of Lean Healthcare training tools designed to make lasting improvements. 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. Tom 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. These certifications build on an Engineering Degree from the University of Michigan. Training experience includes Lean, Quality, and Leadership Training, as well as serving as an Adjunct Faculty Member at Waubonsee Community College.

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