Jun 05 2013

“Lean” Management. “Lean” Leadership.

 WHEN “LEAN” IS FAT!

 

The buzz word in today’s management circles is “LEAN” — not as against a lamppost, but as trimmed back to basics and making the most of computerized technology to produce a measure of quality efficiency. This is a fantastic concept that works in manufacturing (such as with Swiss Screw precision parts, and with automated equipment operations).

Unquestionably, implementing LEAN can make a difference. The problem is that –as with MBWA and Quality Circles and Theory X and Theory Y and JIT and scores of other management and leadership approaches– too many leaders desperate to make a name for themselves by shaking up their organizations tend to latch on to the latest fad, and expect nirvana.

With LEAN, too many advocates of quality leadership in management are attempting to put this square LEAN peg in a round ultimate consumer hole. The result for many of these forced marriages — especially in healthcare (doctors, hospitals, and facilities of every description)– is that they can end up victimizing themselves by a rush to “leanness.”

It’s not unlike cutting back food consumption to lose weight, then ending up dizzy and disoriented. In other words, too much reliance on streamlining the process can easily overshadow the basic thrust of an organization’s purpose.

Consider for example, what the last few letters (hint: Not “EHR” or “EMR”) in healthcare, are all about. All the cost efficiencies and lightning record retrieval systems in the world cannot come close to the only thing that –in the end– really matters:  care.

Of course a LEAN approach in healthcare can mean more accurate, more efficient, more rapidly delivered patient care. But buying into LEAN as if it were the end-all, be-all, ultimate solution to healthcare is like saying that the process of flying the plane is more important than the pilot. And that may well be the case some day but, for now, reality dictates that computer technology apps are simply tools to afford providers the opportunities to provide better quality patient care.

Use LEAN. But give careful budget and strategic planning consideration to the kinds of staff training and practice development avenues that far override the values of LEAN, such as:

1) Staff, patient and patient family communication. [A world-leading hospital I am intimately familiar with has robots delivering meds to patient rooms, but staff physicians who file endless numbers of computer reports don’t read one another’s reports, or communicate with each other. Few even have direct contact with the nurses dispensing the drugs!]   

2) Staff, patient, and patient family stress management [Did you know that the more relaxed a patient is, the more accurate the diagnosis can be and the better the response will generally be to treatment? The better the odds for reimbursement too, not incidentally! Patients and their families seek trust and  reassurance. LEAN may set that table, but only physicians, nurses and professional staffs can deliver the meal.] 

Target your budget and your process emphasis behind the kinds of communication skills and stress management training that providers and provider support staffs most need and least often get if you really want LEAN to work. Diets are great if you stick to them, and success often reduces itself to maintaining an ongoing dialogue about it with someone who supports your pursuits.

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Hal@TheWriterWorks.com or comment below.

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