Getting “lean” with your organization
By Joan Menard, Director of Physician Relations, Harrington HealthCare System, Southbridge, MA
It is likely that you’ve heard about “lean” by now — it’s being touted as the premier strategy for responding to the North American healthcare crisis. It’s synonymous with continuous improvement. There are many glaringly obvious clinical applications — but what about our world of physician recruitment? We often talk about ways that we, as physician recruitment professionals, can add value, and be viewed as serious contributors to workplace success. Lean is all about value — so it’s a great fit!
The lean strategy originated in the automobile manufacturing industry, so it takes keen insight and intuition (of which we tend to have an abundance!) to make the leap to healthcare or any service industry. But really, who doesn’t want the highest quality at the lowest cost? We all want our recruiting and onboarding processes to be the best, while keeping both direct and indirect costs down. By applying lean principles and tools, not only can we accomplish these goals, but also we can demonstrate our lean knowledge and skills to those involved in our processes.
“Muda” equals waste
Lean was developed at Toyota, hence Japanese is the language of lean. “Muda” is the Japanese term for waste. Traditionally, seven areas of waste are identified, but an eighth is commonly cited.
- Transportation – How much of your recruiting or onboarding time is spent walking or driving?
- Inventory – Do you have an abundance of materials on hand? How often do they become outdated?
- Motion – Are all of your frequently used tools within easily accessible?
- Waiting – How much time is spent waiting, i.e., for the next meeting, a response, an approval?
- Over-processing – In the credentialing process, how many forms does a provider complete and how many copies go to how many people?
- Overproduction – Do we do more than is really needed, just in case?
- Defects – Eliminate mistakes; zero errors is the goal.
- Skills – Are there staff with hidden skills? Do we underutilize our providers’ time?
Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to identify the waste and then systematically and relentlessly eliminate it. Remember, zero errors is the goal — even when perfection seems out of reach, it is clearly the right direction to be heading in.
Working in conjunction with those who are touched by your processes, making small incremental improvements, and piloting new ideas will foster a collaborative approach, open communication lines, and ease acceptance of change. Armed with the lean philosophy and tools, any process, problem or waste can be turned into an opportunity to make work easier, results better, capacity greater, and costs lower.
More than 25 years of lean implementations across multiple countries and industries has proven that the greatest success with lean occurs when all levels of the organization are involved. Hence the principle: Everybody, everyday. It’s an attitude of continuous improvement. When introduced carefully, it’s a rallying call. It’s unifying. It’s all about recognizing people as the most valuable resource. It clearly demonstrates respect for employees and results in engaged and loyal staff. If your organization is striving for a “lean culture,” then your lean efforts will be seen as supportive of an institutional goal. If your workplace isn’t there yet, you’ll be ahead of the curve.