Creating a Lean Culture

It is that time again… time to get lean! Last time we touched on understanding what is lean and how this can benefit healthcare organizations. For this blog, we will focus more on understanding what it means to create a lean culture and leadership’s role in lean. There are two things that must happen to succeed at becoming a lean organization:

  • Leadership: Those at the very top must lead this change. Strong commitment and inspiring leadership from senior leaders is essential to the success! The leaders must be aligned in the vision and understanding of lean.
  • Culture: A lean culture is the backdrop against which lean tools and techniques are implemented. A culture must be created where all employees feel a part of the process for continuous improvement.

Let’s take a moment to take a look at the differences between a traditional culture and a lean culture. It truly is a shift in thinking about how teams work together and how leaders lead.

Function Silos Interdisciplinary teams
Managers direct Managers teach/enable
Benchmark to justify not improving: “just as good” Seek the ultimate performance, the absence of waste
Blame people Root cause analysis
Rewards: individual Rewards: group sharing
Supplier is enemy Supplier is ally
Guard information Share information
Volume lowers cost Removing waste lowers cost
Internal focus Customer focus
Expert driven Process driven

To have a lean culture, it must start with leadership and the behaviors that leadership exhibits. To succeed, the commitment to lean must start at the very top of the organization. As a result, it is important to understand leadership’s role in lean.

  1. Know how the business serves the customer
    • Understand what the customer wants, needs, and what will delight them
    • Always be thinking of how to bring more value to the customer
  2. Build ability in the people
    • Encourage problem solving through root cause analysis
    • Ask open-ended, probing questions
    • Leadership should not solve the problems but lead the teams to solve the problems. People believe more in a solution if they help create and implement the solution.
  3. Be engaged and on the floor (“Go See Management)
    • A leader should spend a significant portion of their time “in the gemba” (where the work is being done)
    • Leaders must observe processes themselves and draw conclusions based on their observations
    • Leaders talk to the people actually doing the work…. remember, they are the people who truly know what is going on and where problems exist.
    • Before you comment on the state of an operation, you must “go see” for yourself. Do not rely on what others tell you. All people see through a different set of eyes, have different priorities, and different perspectives.
  4. Change the mentality from problem-hiding to problem-solving
    • All actions should revolve around planning and problem-solving
    • It should be assumed that there will be problems, that everything will not go according to plan
    • No problem is problem
    • For the system to work, problems must be exposed and dealt with forthrightly
    • Hiding problems will undermine the system
    • Leaders should not start by asking who but should instead ask why. Don’t jump to conclusions or solutions… first try to size up the situation and then ask “Why?”
  5. Show a continuous improvement mindset
    • Challenge the status quo
    • Understand that there is always room for improvement and nothing is perfect
    • Understand that the customer’s needs change… what may delight the customer today may not be what is needed tomorrow
    • Put in the time to continue learning lean and to continue improving processes (improve upon improvements): Kaizen Events, 5 S’s, Visual Management
  6. Create a culture to sustain improvement
    • Identify and encourage lean behaviors
    • Find the lessons in every failure – remember, blame does not foster improvement
    • Respect and improve standards… improve upon improvements







Jenny Blue

Jenny Blue

CEO at IPeople
Jenny Blue is co-founder and CEO of Interface People, LP and Consultant People, LP, which operate in a total of 48 US States, England, Ireland, Canada, and South Africa. In her role, Mrs. Blue provides leadership and vision to the company with the ultimate goal of improving patient care through technology. With over 16 years of experience in the programming and healthcare industries, her strong background provides solid direction to all departments, and sets the pace for outstanding innovation as IPeople continues to address the growing challenges and objectives in healthcare.
Jenny Blue

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One Comment

  1. Kay Jackson said:

    Thank you Jenny. Great blog. You are still the smartest lady I know.

    April 28, 2016

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