Book Review: Lean Hospitals
At first glance, I’m sure more than a few people would think this book review has been submitted to the wrong management blog. A few years ago, I might have agreed. If you have looked at the other books that I have recommended, you will see that none of the books I review are targeted at the legal industry, and as such are probably overlooked. The previous books also contain more of the fundamental philosophies that I believe are necessary to fully make use of the ‘tools’ that are available from the lean toolbox.
In the first chapter of Lean Hospitals it gets to the point that my previous recommended books have gotten to and clearly provides that you cannot simply copy the improvements that others in the same industry make. The philosophy behind “Lean” is critical to succeed at using Lean Tools. This is why I recommend you read both the Toyota Way and Toyota Culture first.
However, where this book really shines is where it breaks down the different lean tools and how to use them in a very fundamental way. This way someone without years of experience using these tools can start making tangible improvements without getting bogged down in the detail that other books provide.
While it re-steps through defining what is waste (something that does not add value to the client) the book breaks down how to find waste in using Value Stream Maps. It also does a great job delineating the differences between standardization of a process, which is a basic tenant in applying lean concepts, from making work product identical, which likely misses the mark when trying to achieve unique clients goals.
Of the primary Lean Tools this book covers, I would say that mistake proofing or the Japanese term “poka-yoke”, is my favorite. It provides for the fact that people are human and will make mistakes, but the process can be altered so that mistakes are harder, if not impossible, to make. While all the examples of this that provided in the book relate to hospitals, this concept can be applied in law firms just as well. However, firms must first acknowledge and define the process, which relates back to making a Value Stream Map.
I don’t necessarily recommend this book for its examples, since health care is still not the same as a law firm. However, it is much easier to compare a hospital’s approach to using lean in a service orientated setting to a law firm setting than the traditional manufacturing examples. Once you have your lean way of thinking, and have the basic tools available after reading this book, you’ll be ready to start fixing what you didn’t know was broken.