Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Steve Spear on Continuous Improvement

Steve Spear on Continuous Improvement


I promised to report on my readings during my recent vacation.  Here's the first.


Steve Spear has, in my opinion, become one of most influential thinkers on Lean.  He cemented that position in my mind with the publishing of his third article in Harvard Business Review on Lean Fixing Health Care from the Inside, Today (abstract). 


His focus was on how we can fix healthcare delivery, a noble and far-reaching goal in itself.  But the topic masks the underlying message of the article: how Lean practices enable any enterprise to learn and improve, constantly and dynamically. 


Most importantly, he identifies and illustrates four underlying principles for operational excellence:


1.       Work is designed as a series of ongoing experiments that immediately reveal problems.

2.       Problems are addressed immediately through rapid experimentation

3.       Solutions are disseminated adaptively through collaborative experimentation

4.       People at all levels of the organization are taught to become experimentalists.


Spear's time observing Lean operations and now implementing in a healthcare initiative is right on the money.  Even in these four notes, you will see the links to his earlier work.


I see Spear's three articles (this one along with his first, Decoding the DNA of the Toyota Production System and his second Learning to Lead at Toyota ) becoming the basis for the  training in Lean I'm doing.  His clarity and ability to capture the central, bedrock elements of Lean are unsurpassed.


If you have access to HBR through your local library, copy these articles.  If not, it is well worth the $6.00 for the electronic download of the copy. 


I hope this is helpful.


No comments: