January 28th, 2014 by John Gallagher No Comments



Over the holidays, I completed The Lean Turnaround – How Business Leaders Use Lean Principles to Create Value and Transform Their Company.  For the most part, it was a refresher for me in terms of Lean implementation as I have been directly involved in Lean transformation for the better part of 15+ years.  But, it was a refreshing refresher!

lean turnaround

There were lots of stories from the author’s Lean journey that resonated back to my days in manufacturing, as well as reiterated some of the things I currently work to communicate to leaders in Healthcare as a consultant for a Lean Transformation organization.  Things like: “Shifting from a tradtional to a Lean strategy is simple and straightforward.  The problem is that it is hard to do.”  So true.  Often, leaders are looking for that silver bullet to transform that organization… you know the one… it’s the magic pill that will help us to lose 35 pounds without exercising and being able to eat all that we want.  That’s right.  The silver bullet doesnt’t exist.  A Lean transformation is a multi-year effort.  The principles of a Lean transformation are fundamental:  Work to Takt time, One-piece flow, Standard work, Connect the customer to the work.  I especially liked the author’s experiences as I was familiar or knew some of the consultants he had worked with in the past.

Where I became intrigued and where my belief lies, though, was the last chapter.  “All companies, whether manufacturing or nonmanufacturing, are alike.  They are all composed of processes that, taken together, allow them to do what they do as a business.  In fact, even processes such as hiring, ordering, accounting, invoicing, and similar functions, are common to both types.”

This belief is what continues to drive me in Healthcare.  Clearly, the resistance is much higher in this environment, especially to the thought of standard work.  Associates consider themselves “experts” in their field, and I just don’t understand.  I mean how would I, right?

“John, you aren’t a doctor.  You don’t understand what is needed for me to do my work.” or… “John, we aren’t building cars or widgets.  We are treating people and they are all different.”  To an extent, I agree with both of those statements, AND… know that despite that, all companies are composed of processes full of waste that make their jobs harder, and make their customer (patient) experience difficult, at best.  As a patient, when was the last time you went to any doctor’s office and had your appointment start on time and the time the provider spent with you was greater than the time you spent sitting around waiting for something to happen?  Ask my son who just sat with me as he waited 40 minutes past the scheduled start time of his recent orthodontist appointment how good of an experience that was..

Well, I went away from the book review…,  but these thoughts are what the book triggered in me.  Lean transformation works in any industry.  I love doing what I do to teach that so that I can help our clients achieve their goals and somehow help our US Healthcare industry realize how messed up it really is.  Don’t even get me started on variation in how they provide care… That’s another book!  For now, I highly suggest The Lean Turnaround as a primer to Lean practitioner’s.  It was a thought-provoking read.

What industry do you know that would NOT benefit from a transformation of the wasteful processes currently in place?