Lean Jobs: Good Prospects in Healthcare

Demand is growing in healthcare for people with lean expertise, and now may be a good time to move from manufacturing to healthcare.

That’s the word from Ted Stiles, director of executive search for
Stiles Associates, a headhunting firm specializing in lean jobs.

“We’re seeing a lot of activity in hospitals,” Ted said when I spoke with him recently. “They are really setting up to be a long-term home for lean. There are a lot of systemic issues that are plaguing the hospital industry that are forcing them to look outside the box.”

Lin Stiles, the founder and CEO of the firm, mentioned the start of search activity in healthcare whe
n I spoke with him a year ago. Now Ted sees the trend growing rapidly. He said the factors driving the trend are clearly evident when he listens to speakers at lean healthcare conferences.

“All of them are basically saying the same thing: Quality of patient care is going down, the cost of delivering that care is going up, and the amount the government is going to refund us for some of these avoidable mistakes is about to come off the table,” he comments. “A lot of these folks are feeling pretty desperate. Sometimes a burning platform is all we need to plant the seed for a lean transformation.”

Hospitals that decide to begin a lean journey typically do so in one of three ways, Ted says. The first approach is, “they take someone from the nursing staff, designate them a lean champion, send them to a seminar and get them some books. A lot of people are doing that.” He notes that at lean healthcare conferences, most attendees “tend to be lower-level administrative managers, or maybe the director of nursing, or in some cases the CNO (chief nursing officer). It’s rare you see the audience full of CMOs (chief medical officers) or CAOs (chief administrative officers), folks who can really be influenced at the top level.”

“And that’s a shame,” he adds. “If it works at all, it’s going to take such a long time going that route.”

The second approach is to hire a consultant. And the third, least common approach, is to actually hire someone with lean expertise (who then might be responsible for also hiring a consultant).

Typically, a hospital going the third route will hire a lean expert to be an internal consultant. One exception was ThedaCare, which actually hired a lean expert from manufacturing to be chief operating officer. “That was really unheard of, and near blasphemy,” Ted comments. “It was also a symbol of how serious they were.”

More commonly, he says, hospitals are “developing special segments of the org chart, creating brand new positions and teams, internal folks who act as consultants.”

And hospitals don’t want those new hires to speak in manufacturing terms. Virginia Mason is one of the few hospitals that openly acknowledged they were basing their approach on the Toyota Production System, Ted says. (Productivity Press will publish a book about Virginia Mason later this year.)

It is much more common to avoid manufacturing talk, which will “shut people down,” Ted says, adding “The healthcare community, and really almost every industry shares this to some level, says ‘You don’t understand our industry. We’re different.’ The healthcare community has that times a thousand.”

Someone moving from manufacturing to a job in healthcare will typically see a 10 percent to 20 percent increase in salary, Ted says. However, once in healthcare (where you often are working for a nonprofit organization), salary increases will be incremental, without the bonuses that would be part of a manufacturing job. “You may be jumping into slower growth in the long run,” Ted says.

But at the same time, he adds, a switch to healthcare can be a good career move. His view is that the hospitals that are giving lean responsibility to someone on the nursing staff “in about five years will probably realize, ‘man, we’re really moving slowly.’” At that point, he says, demand for lean folks – particularly those who already have a few years in healthcare – will be “pretty significant.”

However, he also notes that many of the candidates he has dealt with who are seeking to move from manufacturing to healthcare are doing so not primarily because of the money.

“A lot of people are just drawn on a personal level to fixing the system,” he says. “They are passionate about it, typically because they have been through some horrific experience (in healthcare).”

In my next posting, I’ll describe what Ted said about markets other than healthcare.


Dean Bliss said...

I concur with the comments by Stiles. In my case, the move into healthcare from manufacturing was driven by the belief that the Lean philosophy can be a big contributor to helping the system survive. Many other changes are needed, but I think Lean can help us posture ourselves for the inevitable changes to come. The next few years in this industry will be very interesting indeed.

Anonymous said...

I work in the area of Clinical I.T. system implementation and have always seen the variation in clinical workflows and lack of standardisation a real issue in preveting hospital realise the fullest potential of their IT investment. The next step towards enhancing patient safty through using technology such as clinical decision support will only become possible if hospitals make a fundamental re-apraisal of their processes and address the many bottle-necks in service delivery which usually reflect points of hand-off between service areas. I have recently taken some formal training in Lean techniques and tools and see this approach as offering the greatest chance of addressing the problems facing healthcare. From the couple of Kaisen events I've been involved in todate I've seen real benefits emerge quite quickly!

Paul Brayman said...

I am looking at entering the Lean Healthcare System. What is the most effective way to transition form manufacturing to healthcare?


Anonymous said...

I have been in Lean Healthcare or Kaizen for the past almost year, this has been a complete change in culture but almost seems like complete common sense at the same time. After workshops inevitably I always feel like wow why didnt we just do that in the first place. Kaizen gives you such a great platform to visualize your defects its amazing and simple at the same time. After working for years as a hospital based Paramedic in the ER I became a Kaizen Specialist and dont plan on ever looking back. This career has such an incredible way for me to touch the lives of my patients so much stronger than before and in such a profound way. Quality above Cost is my montra and will always be my burning platform.

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