Each of Us Can Help Make a LEAN Organization
| Jun 15, 2012 12:00 PM
What do carmaker Toyota, air bag manufacturer Autoliv Inc., and the University of Utah Health Sciences have in common? Much more than you might guess.
Our senior clinical leadership team is spending the day in California, speaking with three health care institutions—Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital, Palo Alto, Medical Foundation, and Stanford Hospitals and Clinics—and learning from each of their experiences over the past couple of years rolling out a LEAN management tool. LEAN is an approach that empowers all employees to identify inefficiencies in processes that don’t add value to the organization. These processes can be improved with everyone’s involvement using LEAN tools. Then the whole organization keeps an eye on these new and improved processes through visible benchmarking and celebrates progress.
LEAN best practices have been embraced by multinational companies ranging from Toyota to Autoliv Inc., the airbag manufacturer that has several plants in Utah. LEAN at Toyota has been written about in countless Harvard Business School case studies and is the subject of many, many whole books. Their lessons are directly applicable to us. In any complex organization—and academic health sciences centers are among the most complex of any—processes are implemented to make sure good things happen, and prevent bad things from occurring. Sometimes, as technologies, people, and needs change, or as problems arise and must be addressed, the same old processes get so many parts and pieces added that they no longer really work.
How do we experience those inefficiencies in our health sciences center? Excessive forms and paperwork, suboptimal resource management such as over- and underutilization of hospital beds, or approval processes that require too many (seldom too few) people involved. We all have experienced these issues, and so there comes a time when we have to question whether the same old way of doing things is really the best way. We have to rethink how we do things and strip the processes down to just the essential steps that add value. Frequently, the people who know best how to do this are those directly engaged in the processes. Not I, not the deans of the colleges nor the leaders of the hospital, but the people who are on the front lines. And this is where LEAN comes in.
At the University of Utah we provide some of the best quality care and are among the top institutions in patient satisfaction in the country. We have exceptional researchers and research facilities. We train the health care providers of the state and region. Now it’s time to take this amazing organization to the next level. We want to become more efficient so that we can ensure every patient can get access to our exceptional care and also so that our employees’ time and efforts are put to the best use. That’s how we can achieve our goals and do it in a way that is satisfying for the whole organization.
We look forward to engaging everyone in this process starting in the coming year.
Author: Vivian S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A.
About the Author: Dr. Vivian S. Lee is the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences at the University of Utah, Dean of the University of Utah School of Medicine, and CEO of University of Utah Health Care. Read her full bio herecomments powered by Disqus