Lean principles can only take root in healthcare organizations characterized by an adaptive culture and highly engaged employees who are responsive to the changing needs of patients and other stakeholders. Creating an organizational culture that is receptive to Lean thinking requires:
- Shared vision, mission and values
- Robust planning and deployment processes
- Unwavering leadership commitment
- Effective communication
- Integrated learning and professional development
- Respect for people
- Creating a sense of urgency
- Empowerment and involvement
- Cooperation and collaboration
- Modeling of Lean principles
- Positive reinforcement of desired behaviours
Lean transformation involves relentless elimination of waste beyond departmental boundaries and instituting a new way of thinking based on five basic Lean principles. These Lean principles, as defined by Womack and Jones (1996), are fully adaptable to hospitals, outpatient clinics, medical offices, and other healthcare organizations.
True Lean transformation can be completely undermined when organizations use the rhetoric of Lean to eliminate jobs. It has been unequivocally proven that Lean does lead to reduced operating costs, but these come as an end result of eliminating wasteful activities and improving systems and processes. Meticulously planned and executed Lean transformation and practical application of Lean principles result in a number of benefits to the patient as well as the healthcare organization.