Bob Emiliani is one of those guys who enjoys well-deserved lean wizard status. He is an experienced lean practicianer, an author, a professor and most of all a thinker. He wrote a great piece in his most recent newsletter, and has agreed to share it with Evolving Excellence.
Here ya' go:
Virginia Mason Visits Wiremold by Bob Emiliani
On 5 November 2001, a group of more than 25 executives, physicians, and department managers from Virginia Mason Medical Center made the long trip from Seattle, Washington, to West Hartford, Connecticut, to take a tour of The Wiremold Company. Dr. Gary Kaplan, Chairman and CEO of VMMC, had come to see Lean management as the future of healthcare. The trip to Wiremold would help cement that view.
At that same time, I was leading a research project to write a book about The Wiremold Company’s Lean transformation from 1991-2001. VMMCs visit to Wiremold coincided with the data-gathering phase of what later become the book, Better Thinking, Better Results. As part of the research project, I had all of the conference room presentations videotaped. The resulting 6 hours of recordings, plus over 800 pages of transcribed interviews, became the basis for the detailed description of Wiremold’s Lean transformation contained in the book.
Since next month is the 10th anniversary of that visit, I decided recently to watch the videos again. I had not seen them since early 2002, and I can tell you that I was very impressed with what I saw – from both the Wiremold executives and the VMMC team.
Arthur Byrne, the president and CEO of Wiremold, welcomed any visitor to Wiremold as long as their CEO was present. For this visit, the CEO, Gary Kaplan, was more than just present. He was an active participant, eager to learn new things, and – very importantly – ready to put into practice what he had learned. The day consisted of factory tours and conference room meetings in which Art Byrne, Orest (Orry) Fiume (vice president finance and administration), Kevin Fahey (vice president of human resources), and others gave presentations. The presentations were highly interactive, with lots of good questions from the VMMC team.
Wiremold executives deep knowledge of the nuances and details of Lean leadership and Lean management reflect a level of engagement in thinking about and actually doing Lean that is rare among executives. The videos reveal an engaged VMMC healthcare team that had no hang-ups about visiting an old factory to learn about Lean management. They made the jump from shop floor and office processes to medical procedures and healthcare administration, crossing a chasm that so many others in healthcare and elsewhere could not.
In the videos, the Wiremold executives do a wonderful job of translating Lean management from manufacturing to healthcare, and in doing so show how Lean can be applied to any organization in any industry. I have two key takeaways from the videos that I would like to share with you. They are:
- The Wiremold senior management team’s determination to immerse themselves in daily Lean thinking and practice – for more than a decade – and willingness to share and help others; to teach others and to learn from others. These are typical characteristics of highly effective Lean leaders.
- The VMMC team members, CEO on down, were willing and eager to learn new things. They recognized that they were not educated or trained for Lean at any point in their careers. And yet they did not suffer from the typical “I’m the doctor, so don’t tell me what to do” or “It won’t work here because we’re a hospital” mentality.
VMMC, a healthcare organization with over 5,000 employees, has been a pioneer in the application of Lean in healthcare and quite successful in its Lean transformation efforts since 2001. Gary Kaplan remains the CEO to this day, and stability in that position is surely one very important reason why VMMC has had its success. (Disclosure: I was hired by VMMC to conduct Lean leadership training for the senior management team in 2009). You can read about their Lean transformation in a new book.
The videos are a wonderful part of the history of Lean management in healthcare. I have posted over four hours of video, un-edited, to educate and to disseminate and preserve this important part of Lean history. You can view these historic videos of Art Byrne, Orry Fiume, and Kevin Fahey here. Study them closely and take lots of notes. I hope you enjoy and appreciate the videos.