Yes, that’s right even though I have been involved in many lean programs to improve operational efficiencies in various industries over the years I was shocked to see a perfect example of it in action in the local Gold Coast Hospital surgery theatre.(I was there for an emergency procedure after being attacked by a very agressive roaming Rottweiler but thats another story.)
There I was being wheeled thru the emergency department into the theatre; all around me tools of visual managment were prominently displaying the metrics, everyone had a specific job to do and was highly skilled at it. There were standard operating procedures for everything and they were followed to the letter.
Lean Manufacturing or Lean thinking is all about the elimination of waste which automatically improves production, in the case of the hospital this would be the flow of patients which I seen measured with visual throughput reports displayed clearly demonstrating how the team was tracking.
However the “side-effects” of this improvement should not be under-estimated; because of the extensive use of standardizing tasks quality is greatly improved (and seeing as I was just about to go under the knife seeing lean in action was very assuring).
Another “side-effect” of lean thinking in a hospital environment is the team culture it creates; everyone knows what it is they need to achieve as a team and the specific role each of them play in it. This in turn leads to the team being far less stressed, they are aware of the different procedures to be performed on that shift, they know that their team mates have the necessary skills required and they go into theatre as prepared as any professional sports team!
Don’t laugh, I witnessed this first hand again last night in my second operation in 48 hours; the team introduced themselves to me explaining their roles as they efficiently prepared for their individual contribution, they were good humored and felt good about being part of this team and their achievments. They continued to prepare for my operation as the anaesthetist put me asleep. I closed my eyes fully confident in the winning team about to perform on me…
Business could learn a lot from a visit to the theatre, just find a less painful way than me to experience it 😉