Lisa White knows ‘good’ when she sees it. As Infrastructure Lead for the Kaizen Promotion Office (KPO), White has seen firsthand what a lean management system in health care can accomplish. “To go to Seattle Children’s Hospital and to see another lean hospital in action makes me so excited for our patients and our families and for our staff because I know what ‘good’ can look like,” she says.

The Kaizen Promotion Office, formerly Quality Services, is the glue that holds all the improvement work and Saskatoon Health Region’s lean management system together.

The Kaizen Promotion Office, formerly Quality Services, is the glue that holds all the improvement work and Saskatoon Health Region’s lean management system together. The office has three main functions: to provide planning and strategic direction for the organization, to provide the rules and tools of running kaizen events – making sure that all the events are run in the same way and are all supported, and also to provide support for training and certification for all lean and kaizen events.

“The office is really intended to support and develop what the Region needs to be successful: giving people the skills and knowledge they need to work differently,” explains Candice Bryden, Director of the Kaizen Promotion Office.

Kaizen is a Japanese term for that means ‘good change’ or ‘improvement’.

The pace has been hectic. Over the past year, there have been 3P events for Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan, 53 lean leaders are on track to be certified, another 37 begin training in October, 13 RPIWs, two other 3P events, and five 5S events have been completed, and six Mistake Proofing projects are underway. “We recognize that taking all of this on has been really challenging,” says Bryden. “However, as difficult as it feels at this point, after seeing what lean management systems look like in other places and our results so far, I don’t think we’re going to question that it’s worth it.”

The logistics and organizing the resources and people required for the events can be daunting. But witnessing the emotional toll is often the toughest to manage. “There’s an emotional toll and there’s this energy that happens in event week,” says White.

Once event week is over, the Kaizen Promotion Office, RPIW process owners and sponsors have even more work to do to maintain progress.

As the improvement work continues, so does the learning and the inevitable mistakes and course corrections that come with it. Both the Health Region and the Kaizen Promotion Office learn from the process.

Bryden and White agree that the best part of their job is watching partnerships develop during each event week and having patients involved in the process. “The untapped talent that we have in this organization and the results and solutions that participants come up with never ceases to amaze me,” says White. “That’s where I see the ‘good’ and that’s how I know we can get there.”

What does it take to become a lean leader?
Saskatoon Health Region is working with John Black and Associates (JBA) to develop lean leaders across the organization. Included in the process is the certification of selected leaders. JBA’s certification track requires participants to:

• Take value stream mapping training.
• Complete lean leader training – a three-day education module.
• Complete a Module Deep Dive – training in 10 key lean modules.
• Complete a Module Marathon – demonstrate knowledge of modules through “teach backs”
• Take a team lead role and a sub-team lead role in a RPIW.
• Serve as a participant in an additional RPIW.
• Complete a Mistake Proofing project.
• Complete a North American tour for education and coaching on the Mistake Proofing project and to visit another lean hospital in action (Seattle Children’s Hospital).

The initial focus for lean leader certification is for senior leaders, the Kaizen Promotion Office and the first four service lines. There will be opportunities for more Health Region staff to participate in lean training in the future. Currently, staff are encouraged to enrol in the Kaizen Basics course to obtain common background knowledge about lean.