Lean management principles have been used effectively in manufacturing companies for decades, particularly in Japan. Lean thinking begins with driving out waste so that all work adds value and serves the customer’s needs. Identifying value added and non-value added steps in every process is the beginning of the journey toward lean operations. In order for lean principles to take root, leaders must first work to create an organizational culture that is receptive to lean thinking. The commitment to lean must start at the very top of the organization, and all staff should be involved in helping to redesign processes to improve flow and reduce waste.
Adapting Lean Healthcare
Lean healthcare differs in many ways from manufacturing, but there are also surprising similarities: Whether building a car or providing healthcare for a patient, organizations must rely on multiple, complex processes to accomplish their tasks and focus on the value to the patient.
Introducing lean healthcare in an organization is a major challenge. It cannot be done piecemeal, but must be a whole-system strategy. There is no single silver bullet solution that will achieve the same results. And it cannot be done only by middle managers or frontline workers. Those at the very top of the organization, in the C-suite, must lead! Implementing lean healthcare requires major change management throughout an entire organization. A strong commitment from the C-suite is essential to the success of an effort this challenging. The CEO must be a vocal, visible champion of lean healthcare!
Innovation and visionary healthcare organizations are leading the way by demonstrating that lean healthcare can reduce waste with results comparable to other industries. Leaders in healthcare organizations must emphasize the importance of creating an organizational culture that is ready and willing to accept lean thinking.