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Making Lean Successful in Healthcare – Three Lessons from our Rice University Event

December 17, 2015


The Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University hosted an exciting event last week:

Talent Strategies that Drive Organizational Culture, Patient Safety and Accountable Care, brought together attendees from twenty regional healthcare organizations for an interactive afternoon with four outstanding speakers:

• Mike Hoseus Co-author of the award-winning book Toyota Culture, Heart and Soul of the Toyota Way
• Michael Rose, M.D. – Chairman of the South Carolina Safe Surgery 2015 leadership team, recently named by Becker’s Hospital Review as one of 50 Experts Leading the Field of Patient Safety
• Ted Kinney, Ph.D. – A nationally-recognized Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, and Director of Research and Development for Select International
• Manny Chana, MBA, Director of Healthcare Programs and Executive Education, Jones Graduate School of Business, Rice University

There were some common themes at the event but rather than focusing on the mechanics of Lean, the discussion focused on the role of people in Lean and their impact on outcomes. The response from the attendees was so positive that we’ll be bringing this group together in 2014 on a larger stage. We covered too much to review here, but I found three points particularly important:describe the image

1. Define your True North – Hoseus emphasized that this is the starting point for Lean and while most organizations believe they have defined and established their ultimate goal, many have not. Accordingly, their Lean initiatives are misguided and don’t contribute to the organization’s success. The response by the workforce is often less than enthusiastic, particularly when it is presented as merely a way to reduce labor costs.

2. Start with People, not Process – Dr. Rose gave examples of initiatives to improve patient safety that failed, not because the process wasn’t effective but because the initiative focused too much on process and not enough on engaging team members. Even something as seemingly simple as adopting surgical checklists or preventing wrong site surgeries, fail when the initiative doesn’t get team members to see the value and have input in implementation – including tying the program to their own goals and values.

3. Build Talent Systems that Support Your Goals – Dr. Kinney reminded the group that companies like Toyota build Lean into their talent systems. They define the behavioral competencies that predict success and contribute to their unique culture, then build selection and development systems around those competencies. This is particularly important in healthcare, because for decades the ONLY criteria considered in the hiring process were training and technical skills, even though we have learned that success is, more often than not, determined by behavioral competencies. This is especially true when trying to create a Lean culture because skills like collaboration, empowerment, and adaptability, are not reflected in a resume or the traditional candidate interview.

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Bryan Warren Bryan Warren was the former Director of Healthcare Solutions at PSI. He was responsible for developing and promoting tools and services designed specifically for the unique challenges faced by healthcare organizations.