Ok, I have to pose a question for the general “Lean Thinkers” out there who are aware of how conservative healthcare is. I have been reading so many articles that highlight the success of Kaizen events in healthcare settings. However, I have to ask myself, do they really work? Do the changes really sustain? Is it possible to make dramatic changes to a setting within a healthcare facility in five days? The team of implementers at my organization have never done what is defined as a “kaizen event,” and we’re not sure we want to try.

The biggest concern for me is that there will be no staff buy-in as a result of a five day implementation. Because healthcare is filled with skilled autonomous workers, change seems very difficult to overcome. It’s quite ironic in an industry that constantly changes with new regulations and technology, but replacing complex thinking with common sense is overwhelming to healthcare workers. Also, when you do have a group of the willing, there isn’t enough of them with enough time to devote to such a fundamental revolution.

Secondly, can you pull the resources needed in less than five days? Can you have members from the IT department, facilities department, etc. on-board and able to assist the whole time? Obviously, these people would have to be on hand working side-by-side with the implementers in order to achieve the results. It’s almost like that home makeover show: everyone is working side-by-side to have a house built in a week. It may work for them, but it has been my reality that these people aren’t always available at a great length of time.

Finally, are the champions, stakeholders, executives ready and willing to commit to such drastic policy changes in such a short period of time? It seems, from the case studies I’ve read, policy changes happen on the fly and with little executive involvement. How can these changes sustain?

Of course, the optimist in me says that making such drastic changes in such a short period of time eliminates the opportunity for the “what if…” flag to be flown in my face. Drawing out a plan and strategically implementing it over time has committed me to a life of “firefighting.” It seems I am perpetually stuck in a “one step forward, two steps back” routine. So I can see how a dramatic overhaul would not allow enough time mull over the natural resistance to change.

Can anyone describe a typical Kaizen event in a healthcare setting, and how it was able to be successful in an industry that is bound and determined to maintain its conservative roots in an industry experienced in change?

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