Posted by: Knightbird | May 7, 2012

Health Care Conference Topics Are Not Exciting Anymore

Lean changes your perception of ordinary topics at health care conferences. I am sitting in on a presentation about a consultant led process improvement initiative. I have heard the typical buzzwords already, and the list was so long I couldn’t type them out. Have to wait for the PowerPoint I guess. The fact is that consultant led changes do achieve results. Although there is controversy about the “Hawthorne Effect” and the concept that results improve when you pay attention to the people working in the process. I have seen many improvements made in the Alaska Tribal Health System under the tutelage of consultants. But, the improvements rarely survive the transition to new executive unless the funding creates a command and control structure. That doesn’t happen in a system always short of funds.
The reason why I titled this post the way I did is because I am aware of the transient nature of the improvements achieved under consultants (except for good lean consultants). We went through this program and found that there was some information transfer. But in a very short time, we understood that we were way ahead of the consultants and our peers in this initiative. I came to this session because it was the only one I hadn’t already sat through many times. Here, I had a chance to see what other participants thought of the initiative. One group actually likes it. But they have also participated 3 times.
There are good ideas in the initiative. Communication, team approach and transparency. It’s just that this type of initiative would be much farther along than under Lean. And the fact of existence of this initiative, and the relative satisfaction of the participants, means that we are not likely to pursue a true revolutionary management system like lean.


  1. Excellent post. I would agree that internally trained lean leaders can quickly outpace external consultants. I have experienced this as well and have given up on conferences and seminars. I believe the despite knowing all the right words and having all the cool slide decks, these consultants do not have the the cultural muscle to build change that can transcend the change in executive leadership.

  2. Excellent points. Lean starts with leadership. Conferences may inspire and inform some leaders, but there’s nothing like getting out of the conference room and out to the point of work to make things happen.

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