HIMSS10: Hospital discusses its 'methodical' approach to lean management

Children's Medical Center of Dallas is one of many hospitals around the country that has subscribed to the "lean" approach for transforming their hospital, which essentially focuses on accountability to eliminate waste and foster improvement. The difference between the approaches taken by Children's and some of its predecessors, however, lies in the time spent implementing such a transformation, as Jim Adams, the hospital's laboratory senior director discussed at HIMSS10 in Atlanta on Tuesday. 

While a good portion of hospitals choose to hold a week's worth of what are referred to as "kaizen," or continuous improvement events, Children's took a more methodical approach, implementing a kaizen event cycle that stretched out over several weeks. The purpose of such events was for leaders at the hospital to learn how to "do kaizen," so they could ultimately pass those teachings along to employees at all levels. Holding the events over a series of weeks, rather than only having a week's worth of events, was something that Adams believed would make the processes stick long-term.

"You have to have a lot of patience to make a transformational change," Adams said. I'm not sure you can achieve this same evolutionary plan if you're looking at a week-long event." 

Mark Graban of the Lean Enterprise Institute, who has helped several hospitals in adjusting to a lean lifestyle, believes that each facility is different, and that it ultimately depends on what style works best for implementation. He made note of a hospital he had worked with where the doctors and managers adjusted kaizen events around their schedules, rather than simply taking one or several weeks to focus solely on learning kaizen.

Ultimately, though, Graban sided with Adams in terms of implementing long-term change.

"There is no wrong way to do this sort of thing," Graban said. "But real transformation requires a lot of things that can't be accomplished in one week."

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