Tips on getting your lean effort off the ground

I recently came across a blog posting about the challenge of sustaining lean initiatives in hospitals. There are many comments posted as to why these initiatives are not successful, but in my experience it boils down to the training style, and the need to involve many different levels of employees. It can’t just be a management decision, and can easily fail at the grassroots (front line workers) level without the active involvement of middle level management. The combination of management commitment and employee buy-in can deliver projects that improve processes and reduce waste. For many hospitals it seems like getting those folks into the same room at the same time is what hinders the ability to move forward. It is often difficult to justify taking people away from jobs that equal revenue in order to bring them into a room for value stream mapping or other lean tools. Here are some suggestions from Stanley InnerSpace based on our experience with hospitals that might help you to successfully launch your lean efforts:

  1. Install a communication board in the target department and ask staff for 1-2 ideas to help decide potential projects needed.
  2. Schedule time to observe the staff doing the work, and document those observations to be reviewed during the session. If possible, include a person from the management team in the walk.
  3. Create a preliminary agenda for a 6 hour meeting. Determine exactly what you want to accomplish and who needs to be involved in the meeting. Coordinate calendars and schedule coverage as needed. Even if this has to be a few weeks out, it is better than not having it scheduled.
  4. Schedule the session from 9-3. Bring in lunch and use that time as a team building exercise.
  5. Be sure to confirm everyone’s attendance a few days before the meeting. Be prepared on meeting day. Have all materials such as dry erase markers, presentation paper, flip charts and any other supplies that might be needed. Create a printed agenda to follow and ask someone to keep the time on each agenda item.
  6. As work progresses throughout the day, assign someone to take notes and pictures to share information on the communication board
  7. The last 45 minutes of the planning session should be dedicated to creating an implementation plan.
  8. Follow up by sending the implementation plan, pictures and other notes to all participants.

 Whether you are doing value stream mapping, A3 problem solving or developing a 5S project, it is critical to allow enough time to work through all the issues with the people doing the work. The payback on the time invested will come in the results from the project. This first meeting is the most difficult but once you have that success story, you will find scheduling future project planning sessions easier to justify!