Lean Health Care and Culture Change

No longer can health care organizations continue to provide services without changing the method of care delivery. There are so many processes involved in the delivery of care that many organizations do not know where to begin. Often when they do begin to implement a lean philosophy the focus is on the short-term project goals and not the long-term culture change.

Culture change education and management along with implementing lean processes leads to project success and long-term permanent savings. That’s a mouthful to say and a great deal to manage. Most lean projects lead to successful completion, but work culture tends to slip back to old habits after the focus is moved elsewhere in the organization. The savings slowly erode back to pre-project levels or in some cases new issues develop that create additional costs.

Therefore, it is important to facilitate a change management plan to accompany any lean process improvement project. While lean projects have a definitive start and end implementation date change management is on going. Change management education doesn’t have to be painful to be effective it needs consistency. Consistency may mean weekly, monthly, or quarterly facilitation sessions depending upon the complexity of the change and how many levels of the organization that are impacted. In other cases, it may mean daily reminders prior to beginning the workday to focus on the benefits of effective change.

Please remember when you are asked to participate in a lean health care project (or any lean project) to be aware of the impact on the organizations culture. If the project requires culture to change, be sure to recommend a change management plan. The executive sponsor will be thankful you asked as will the patients that your organization serves. Good luck!