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Mark Graban

Mark Graban:”What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9

By Mark Graban, - Last updated: Friday, July 8, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

I sometimes hear people say that lean concepts and philosophies are just a restatement of Dr. Deming’s teachings or it’s all copied from Henry Ford or it has been lifted from Benjamin Franklin. But it could be argued that each new “restatement” leads to incrementally improved definitions and understandings of core principles from the past. One hospital laboratory director I worked with had been studying Peter Senge’s “The Fifth Discipline” with his managers, but when introduced to lean and the Toyota Production System, he found a framework that allowed him to “operationalize” the concepts of systems thinking so they could begin working toward the goal of being a “learning organization.” You can read more of his thoughts in a paper we co-authored for a management journal – http://www.leanblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Adams_Graban.pdf .

There are also similarities between lean thinking and other current improvement methodologies, including Quint Studer’s “Hardwiring Excellence” approach (be a servant leader, ask questions at the gemba) , the checklists approach adapted from aviation safety (people should write their own checklists, test them, and improve them over time), and other aspects of the “modern patient safety” movement (focusing on systems instead of shame and blame).

The fact that we see similarities to lean thinking in past books or other modern improvement movements should help validate these principles. It might also show that they are “timeless principles,” as Dr. Stephen Covey would say (another approach with a lot of overlap and parallels to lean).

If it’s valid and timeless, it doesn’t have to be new to be valid or helpful.

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