I am not sure about you, but around our house, we enjoyed watching the “Undercover Boss” television program.  Because my world is filtered through Lean eyes, I am sure that I enjoyed it for different reasons than some.  If you did not get a chance to see the show, I can summarize it for you quickly.  A top-level executive dresses down and “applies” for a job at his/her own organization.  I believe that the show uncovers a couple of simple truths that we can all stand to learn and apply in our Lean Healthcare journeys.

The first truth that I found amazing was how many times an executive could go into their own organization without being recognized.  I know that in a large organization, not everyone is going to spend time with the C-suite.  However, it was common for the undercover individuals to not be recognized by a whole store or division of their own companies.  It made me wonder if these leaders ever left their offices.  One of the few Japanese terms that has carried over into Lean Healthcare vernacular is used to describe the area where the work happens, or “Gemba.”  One of the significant challenges for healthcare leaders is getting out of meetings and into their healthcare organizations to meet with staff and patients. In a Lean organization, we work with leaders to go to Gemba.  The currency of leaders is T-I-M-E.

The second truth that was fun for a Lean Healthcare geek was to see the executives learning how things truly work in their own organizations.  The undercover bosses would work side-by-side with employees and learn the true challenges related to the work. Often times the leaders would see how their decisions were or were not communicated down through the organization.  However, this skill should not be limited to going undercover.  As a leader in an organization, problem solving is a significant part of the job.  As part of Lean Healthcare leadership coaching we teach leaders a simple three step process: Let’s-Go-See.  Go see how work happens, how problems look from the patient’s perspective, how staff understands mission and vision. 

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 share lean principles through hands-on learning. 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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