Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Toyota has long been very generous in allowing other organizations serious about beginning a Lean initiative (even competitors!) access to their Toyota Production System, even to the point of mentoring these companies as they attempt to implement a Lean initiative. See how their TSSC group does this with suppliers and non-profit organizations.

However, Toyota has been very forthright in stressing that the TPS that works for them may not be the form of TPS that is right for others. They are very careful to help these companies find the particular form of TPS that will work best in that industry, organization and culture. The tools can be extrapolated, but the goals, processes and outcomes will be unique.

This brought to mind the use of industry benchmarks, especially for a practice that is embarking on the unique journey of Lean. Are they useful?  Should the performance of others set  the goals for a Lean veterinary initiative?  Should they represent the future state aims and goals? Could those benchmarks actually set limits to our own progress?

Every practice is different, with unique visions, talents, clientele, resources, floorplans, etc.  The tools and specific methods that work for one might not be right for another (but the philosophy is very transferrable). The goal to a Lean thinker is to be better tomorrow than you are today; to get closer and closer to perfection or your ideal state, not just an industry benchmark. Besides, with a culture and mindset of kaizen, a Lean practice will probably leave these benchmarks “in the dust.”

So, in my mind, it is more important to focus on your particular practice processes. Concentrate on closing the gap between your current state and future state using the PDCA / PDSA cycle (blog on PDCA/PDSA), kaizen and continuous improvement (blog on Kaizen).

Also, a Lean practice will come up with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and benchmarks that are unique to this mindset, such as Door-to-Doc time, Doc-to-Discharge time, # of kaizens submitted per staff member per month, # of kaizens completed, etc.

The competition (or the goal!) is not the hospital down the street, it is yourself. Strive not to emulate, but to innovate and experiment...and learn!  This takes effort, creativity, and persistence. If you can find that... the rest will take care of itself. 

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