By Jon Miller | Post Date: October 8, 2006 8:35 PM | Comments: 3
There is a new working paper by Michael Balle, author of The Gold Mine, that addresses how the Toyota Production System is in fact a learning system, using a hospital in France as a case study. The first page of the article contains a notice that it is a working paper and that quoting, duplicating or distributing without the author's permission is prohibited. So I will do none of that, but provide a link to the article.
The working paper and the work at this French hospital builds on the ideas of several other papers by consultants and authors of TPS. There is nothing new here per se in terms of process improvement tools or techniques and how they apply to hospitals, but that is not the point. The paper provides a good perspective of TPS as a learning system. There are a few good examples with photos and descriptions of problem solving, establishing basic stability as foundation for continuous improvement.
There are a couple of good quotes also, which I will not duplicate here but rephrase as I have heard them said. One is the idea of "making things is making people" at Toyota, meaning you must first develop your people before you can make good products. The second is that it's better to apply a 60% solution systematically rather than a 100% solution only sporadically. Another variant of this is "quick and dirty improvement is better than delayed perfection".
The article raises an interesting question about stability as a necessary foundation for continuous improvement, particularly for hospitals. This issue may be addressed later when the working paper is further developed, but it may not. This is the issue of workforce stability. At least in the United States the turnover of nurses is a serious problem in many hospitals. The shortage of nurses is exacerbated with the fact that the changeover of personnel at the nursing level can be high. This will get worse over the next 5 to 10 years as a large number of nurses who reach retirement age leave the workforce.
Papers like this one that raise these issues in general terms will certainly help hospitals who are attempting to implement the Toyota Production System get a better handle on what they need to do to succeed.Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.