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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Are your internal lean experts excelling?

Lean nation,

Today's blog will review an important lesson.  If you have read any of my blogs in the past, your will quickly recognize this theme.  About 1/3 or more of my blogs focus on this topic.  Have you guessed it yet?


I was teaching a Master's class at the University of Toronto, and an adjunct this week on healthcare quality improvement.  I had a class of some the best and brightest minds in healthcare including a blend of physicians, clinicians, and administrator's.  It is inspiring that our next generation of healthcare leadership is getting a grounding in lean quality improvement.

This class was an intense course.  4 days of  consecutive lessons.  I prefer teaching in that format since the concepts are progressive in their application and the back to back consistency enables better retention and application of the material.  The questions I received from the class were very interesting and an excellent gauge for what is happening within the healthcare industry.  As least as it relates to the students in the class. And this class was international in their make-up.

Would you be able to guess where the majority of questions came from?   Yes there were thee usual list of questions related to tools and their application.  The concepts students struggled the most with included the following:

  • the application of takt time
  • properly completing a time observation
  • properly completing a loading diagram
  • applying the scientific method through the A3, and 
  • process control

Ironically, the broader issues with the class were not tool related at all.  There were leadership related.   As we talked through linking lean improvement to corporate strategy, removing the barriers to large scale organizational change,  dealing with accountability issues,  one theme became apparent.  Leadership in these students organizations were unclear of their roles,  or not engaged in the improvement process at the level required to be successful.  

All of the major issues that need to be resolved to transform an organization must be dealt with directly by senior leadership.  This topic dominated the class from the first through the fourth day.  I had to spend a lot of time addressing the leadership aspects of each of the change concepts. More time was spent talking about the tricks to get leadership's attention.

Let's go back to the title of this blog.  Are your lean improvement experts excelling in your organization?  If not,  the problem may not lie with the improvement team, it may lie with leadership.

Lean Blessings:


Ron Bercaw
President and Sensei
Breakthrough Horizons Ltd
Shingo award winning author

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