Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit 2017: Reflections and Insights

Two weeks ago I was in Palm Desert for the annual Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit co-hosted by Catalysis and the Lean Enterprise Institute.

A great evening of sharing our experiences of Lean and Japan! (L-R: Darril Wilburn, Mark Graban, Dan Markovitz, Sammy Obra, & Katie Anderson)

It was the first time in many years that I’d been able to attend because we were living in Japan and I was looking forward to seeing colleagues from across the U.S.

Pre-Summit Events

On Monday and Tuesday I taught a pre-Summit workshop “Coaching for Improvement” and had a chance to spend time with Catalysis and LEI faculty in the evening (see photo).

Summit Main Events

Me and Paul DeChant on the Tuesday Welcome Event, talking about our recent interview and life!

The main Summit events kicked off on Tuesday night and the program extended through Thursday.

As always, the mix of connecting (and reconnecting) with other passionate healthcare change agents and leaders and learning through the formal sessions makes for an inspiring event.

I had a chance to see Paul DeChant in person, which was a great follow-up from the interview I did with him a few weeks earlier. (Note: Through the end of this week, you can register for a chance to win a free copy of Paul’s new book about how Lean can help cure many of the issues facing healthcare!)

Thank you!

Thank you to all of the followers of this blog or my other writing on the Lean Post and Planet Lean who came up to me at the event to say hi!

Key Highlights from the Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit

While not exhaustive or comprehensive of all the learning sessions at the event, I’ve compiled many of my key takeaways and learning highlights from the sessions to share with you. What were yours?

Terell Stafford – The Importance of Fundamentals, Frameworks and Routines

Terell Stafford and band playing on Wednesday evening at the Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit.

Terell Stafford is a world-famous jazz trumpeter and is the Director of both the Jazz and Instrumental Studies Programs at Temple University.

His presentation (and subsequent performance at Wednesday’s cocktail hour) was the highlight of the Summit learning sessions for me.

Beyond hearing his personal story of being a pre-teen obsessed with classical music, to choosing to focus on jazz music, to becoming a professor and teacher of others, I was taken by his comments about the importance of fundamentals, frameworks and routines were to his ability to improve and succeed.

Routines and structure matter

Stafford shared that practices three routines daily, without fail. These structures and habits are essential to his success as a musician.

Shook sharing his reflections on Terell Stafford’s presentation.
  1. Maintenance routines – exercises he performs to maintain the basics. He’s been practicing the same routine for over 30 years! He insists that each of his music students develops their own maintenance routines.
  2. Growth routines – routines he uses to practice anything that didn’t go to standard in his maintenance routine.
  3. Exploration routines – time and space set aside for learning something new, innovating, growing,developing. This can take a variety of formats and where he wants to spend most of his time, but he has to work through his maintenance and growth routines first.

A3 Problem Solving is a structure and framework for thinking

Just as Stafford’s routines have created the structures and frameworks for his continuous improvement, I couldn’t help seeing the parallel to Lean and A3 problem solving thinking:

  1. Follow a standard – before we can improve, we have to first create a standard and then work to follow the standard.
  2. Close a caused gap in performance – if there is a gap between the current standard and what is actually happening we need to work to close the gap through first determining the root cause(s) and then putting in place experiments to close the gap.
  3.  Create a new gap and innovate towards a higher level of performance – Or if we want to reach a higher level of performance, we create a new target and then work to close this new gap in performance and establish a new standard.

Matt May and Jeff Hunter – The relationship between strategy, Lean and innovation

How strategy, Lean thinking, and innovation fit together into a Strategic Management System.

Several years ago Jeff Hunter, the former VP of Strategy at ThedaCare and now a Catalysis faculty member, turned me on to Matt May’s writing and the strategy book “Playing to Win” by Lafley and Martin, which have been helpful frameworks for me when coaching others on strategic thinking.

A Strategic Management System

Jeff led a breakout session about how he has used the “Playing to Win” framework to help leaders link strategy deployment, continuous improvement activities, and “big rocks” (big projects that consume cross organizational resources, but won’t create differentiation) into a Strategic Management System.

“What must be true?”

This one question is one that I’ve incorporated in my coaching and strategy work with leaders to help them uncover the unknown assumptions behind their thinking. It’s a GREAT question!


Matt May later took to the main stage to share his latest thinking about innovation.  A few of his comments in particular stood out for me:

“The ability to learn is a precursor to innovation.”

Innovation is when the solution requires more than incremental change, the “solution” is a mystery.

We have to get better at innovating and testing our hypotheses.

John Shook – Pulling it all together

John Shook has an amazing ability to synthesize the multiple thoughts and insights from a multi-day conference. Of his many comments, here are a few highlights.

Lean Thinking is about transforming our organizations AND ourselves.

Lean is about organizational AND personal transformation.
Lean is a balance between both developing PEOPLE and improving PROCESSES. Its social and technical.

Management’s role in a Lean Transformation

Shook said that in a Lean organization, “aligning purpose – process – and people is the role of management”.

Lean requires us to both develop people and improve processes, all in service to the purpose of delivering value to customers.

Beware of the Yo-Yo Transformation!

Shook made parallels with the recent Time Magazine cover story that highlighted fad diets.

Just like diets, no one process (or diet) will deliver sustainable results for any one person or organization.

And similar to sustaining a new weight, we have to create new HABITS if we want to see sustainable results.

We all have choices

We often talk about “how to get the leader to get this”. But what if the leader doesn’t want to change?

Shook challenged the audience that “we all have choices” and that we can make changes to ourselves even if the leader isn’t changing.

The importance of having a personal plan for improvement

Shook’s closing remarks bookended the conference with a similar focus on personal improvement as John Toussaint’s opening keynote the day before.

When opening the Summit, John Toussaint highlighted the value of having a personal process for improvement, such as the personal improvement A3, and challenged the audience at the close of his talk with the question: “What is YOUR process for improvement?”

John Shook’s comments that these characteristics and creating a plan for improvement are not just for senior leaders, but us all.

Personal Improvement – not just for senior executives, but for us all

While Dr. Toussaint focused his examples of how various healthcare CEOs and senior leaders have been using a personal improvement A3 to develop their own plan for improvement, this same thinking process can be used by anyone create an improvement plan.

I recently wrote in the Lean Post about how using the personal A3 process process helped accelerate my own improvement as a coach and leader.

You can read more about the personal improvement A3 process from my earlier blog posts – or sign up for one of the coaching classes I (or Margie Hagene) teach through Catalysis or LEI!

Other insights – what are yours?

For other insights from the conference, you can check out Mark Graban’s posts from the event for both Day 1 and Day 2 and the highlights from Catalysis, or go to the Twitter hashtag #HCSummit17.

If you attended the Summit, what were some of the standout takeaways for you? Or if you weren’t able to be there, what do the highlights I’ve shared make you think of?

Please leave your comments below.

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