Posted by: Knightbird | March 4, 2012

SEARHC Had A Chance To Implement Lean In 2007

My place of birth was the Alaska Native hospital at Mt. Edgecumbe, Alaska. The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Corporation (SEARHC) assumed operation of the hospital and health care services for much of Southeast Alaska. My mother was Tlingit (Eagle, Thunderbird from Dry Bay Alaska). I was raised in the Tlingit culture. When I was growing up, my mother and elders told me to go get my education then come back and serve our people. I did.

One way I have served is to educate and share my knowledge with others. In 2007, I did that by sharing my knowledge of lean healthcare with the President/CEO of SEARHC. After he passed away, I shared this same knowledge with the new President/CEO. Now we learn from a news report that the new SEARHC President/CEO is disclosing a loss of $4.0 million for 2011. According to his letter to employees, this happened through “the consequences of inattention to the evolving nature of health care – the business of tribal health care specifically – and a failure to effectively manage such complex issues.” (“SEARHC faces $4M loss from 2011, CEO says”) By the way, the former SEARHC President/CEO has moved on to manage the statewide Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. The new President/CEO says, “difficult changes are on the way.” Because the problems are so severe, the new President/CEO says, “In less urgent times, he says he would want to engage staff on the best ways to solve the consortium’s financial issues. But this situation is critical, he says, and the sooner changes occur, the less drastic they’ll be.”

Most experienced managers know that the way change is accepted is through a crisis. John Kotter wrote a number of books explaining the importance of the perception of crisis as a motivator for change. However, Kotter also talks about a compelling vision as a key to positive change. Unfortunately, the new President/CEO is already embroiled in a personal controversy. (Juneau Empire, February 28, 2012). Now employees are going to be fearful of losing their employment, and patients are going to be fearful of losing their providers. This did not need to happen. I know enough about SEARHC to understand that there is incredible waste in their operations. That’s why I talked to the two prior CEO’s. The new one is in trouble. Two events like this in less than a month can derail an executive.

I will watch this with interest. A former SEARHC board chair and board member did listen to me and this prior chair toured our health care operations in Seward. She and the board member were impressed enough to accept my recommendation that they visit the Virginia Mason health system in Seattle, which they did last year. From what I heard, a number of board members wanted to adopt lean as their management system. That may be why the prior President/CEO resisted. He did not have the curiosity to investigate and chose to leave instead. The new President/CEO comes from an employer that also rejected lean as their management system. All I can say is too bad for the patients in Southeast Alaska. Good employees working in bad systems cannot produce good results.


  1. Pity “Treasures” were not valued and given enough importance…Crisis are crossroads to doing what is right…Yes, exciting to see what their next steps will be…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: