On the Mend: Revolutionizing Healthcare to Save Lives and Transform the Industry

John Toussaint, M.D., and Roger A. Gerard with Emily Adams, Lean Enterprise Institute, 2010, 181 pp., $30 (book).

Revolutionizing healthcare is necessary but has been out of reach for most healthcare companies and consumers during the last decade. This book tells a great story of one company’s challenges and solutions in building a lean and effective institution.

ThedaCare, the company profiled in the book, is a community-owned healthcare system in Wisconsin. It encompasses a group of medical centers, healthcare systems, physicians groups and a nonprofit organization, ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value, that works to facilitate learning networks of healthcare providers and reward best performers on quality and cost.

The book is divided into two parts: processes and people. It is designed to walk readers through the necessary steps to build a lean healthcare system by focusing on the patient and quality of healthcare while also minimizing time. This is done by focusing on continuous improvement. Leadership and commitment to the quality process are required for success, and widespread communication of goals are critical.

ThedaCare used root cause analysis and other specific quality control tools to identify ownership of and solutions to specific problems. The book includes an extensive appendix of examples of the quality process tools used as well as tables and charts of results and metrics.

Overall, this is an excellent blueprint for healthcare organizations. It is useful and practical to all sizes of institutions.

I. Elaine Allen
Babson College
Wellesley, MA

Lean Safety: Transforming Your Safety Culture With Lean Management

Robert B. Hafey, Productivity Press, 2010, 186 pp., $39.95 (book).

While safety and quality are often touted by management to both be top priority, they are rarely considered together. Safety is most often driven from a compliance or regulatory need, while quality is more likely to be customer-based. To the detriment of both, techniques used in one discipline are not usually used by the other.

In this book, Hafey makes an excellent case for using lean practices to build a safety-oriented organization. He briefly reviews common lean practices and discusses their applicability to safety situations. Subsequent chapters delve into more advanced techniques, such as a kaizen blitz, root cause analysis for accident investigations, continuous improvement and metrics. All tools are tied together in the interest of promoting a culture of safety with a roadmap to safety excellence.

Hafey provides a serviceable glossary explaining common lean and safety terms. Each chapter is self-sufficient, and the index is fairly complete, although it need not be extensive because this is a short and straightforward book. A transition from quality to safety should not be too difficult because more quality people are exposed to safety management systems than vice versa.

Quality practitioners should give this book to their company safety manager, who should seriously consider implementing many of these activities into safety practices. Quality practitioners also may wish to read this book if they are looking for a different way to use their skills.

Marc A. Feldman
Solvay Chemicals

It’s About Time: The Competitive Advantage of Quick Response Manufacturing

Rajan Suri, Productivity Press, 2010, 228 pp., $39.95 (book and CD-ROM).

Suri draws from his extensive experience as an instructor and consultant, and from his leadership position at the Center for Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. QRM means responding to customers’ needs by rapidly designing and manufacturing products customized to those needs. Suri discusses the four principles of QRM in a simple, yet methodological, manner.

Throughout the book, Suri emphasizes the necessity of shifting from cost-based thinking to a time-based mind-set. This is the main driving force for a successful QRM design and implementation. He identifies several shortcomings of the material requirement planning currently used by a large number of organizations and proposes the use of paired-cell overlapping loops of cards with authorization, which is the shop-floor material control strategy to support QRM.

Suri argues that implementation of the QRM method should help organizations that have unsuccessfully used improvement strategies such as lean, just-in-time, kaizen and Six Sigma.

The accompanying CD-ROM includes practical and time-saving tips for application of QRM principles. Although the book includes a large number of case studies in support of QRM strategy, it lacks cumulative in-depth lessons learned by the named companies. With a minimal leap of faith, however, the reader should feel comfortable with the information presented in the book and give QRM a chance.

Herzl Marouni
ABS Consulting

Dare To Be Different!: Reflections on Certain Business Practices

James L. Lamprecht and Renato Ricci, ASQ Quality Press, $18 member, $30 list, 152 pp., (book).

Lamprecht and Ricci slice into the fads overriding an organization’s quest for continuous improvement, cost containment and efforts to increase profits. Acknowledging that some fads can be effective, they decry the blind dash to apply the magical practices purveyed by consultants as the panacea for all ills across the whole organization.

The book mainly targets inefficient and often useless major software acquisitions. The authors write extensively about the collection and processing of data, and whether the resulting reports are useful to management in their decision-making. When data are collected, crunched, manipulated and summarized, do the resulting charts, graphs and tables truly help management make the best decisions?

Approaching some of the topics discussed in the book, readers are apt to begin with angry denial, then progress to the stage of questioning the soundness of a favorite tool, technique or philosophy, and finally accept the premise it might be worthwhile to check the viability of their organization’s business practices. Beliefs and habits are tough to change—that is, until you receive a shock and realization sets in. Regard this book as the shock you need to dare to be different.

The book addresses situations and foibles applicable to most businesses. It purports the truth. If you want sugarcoating, go elsewhere. You don’t have to agree with what all the authors say, but you’ll likely agree to open your mind to their critiques. This book is challenging and worth reading.

Russell T. Westcott
R.T. Westcott & Associates
Old Saybrook, CT

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