Posted by: knightbird | September 20, 2011

More on Lean Design

One aspect of becoming a lean leader, in my experience, is stepping back from controlling projects. Employees respond to a chief executive, often times in negative ways. Intervening in a situation involving a defect when the source of the defect is common cause can increase variance. I often refer to these interventions as political solutions and see it most often in board members. A customer or constituent will complain to a board member, who then takes that complaint to the CEO. The CEO wants to get the board member off his/her back so they go to the employee closest to the problem and says, “make it go away, and I don’t care how.” So the employee ends up making it go away but does not improve the overall process. And in making it go away, variation increases because people learn that they can get results as an individual through complaining behaviors.

The same is true when working on a project. If a CEO is involved, the employees give the CEO too much deference, and don’t use their own abilities to resolve the issues on the project. In the case of lean design, I assigned the project to one of my executives with a goal. Find the optimum amount of space we need, design use of the space with lean design principles, try to locate a construction company willing to implement lean construction in the construction of the building and use zero net energy principles in the building design. Our overall goal is to improve our patient service.

But a CEO also needs to be a teacher. As a strategic leader, I want my staff to be continually thinking about innovation and improvement. Many people will be involved in the design of the new clinic. We will talk to our tribal members, the employees who will work in the building, our IT staff, records management staff, finance and accounting staff and many more. This building may be in our life for 40 years, and we don’t want it to become an albatross around our neck.

Our next step is a brainstorming session. The team will be building a scale model with moveable walls to discuss patient flow and provider movement. I am excited to see what comes out of the project, but I have to remember that I am a teacher. I cannot command a result, but I can set goals and help teach my staff on how to reach those goals.

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