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Leaning Toward Lean: Clear Thinking For Better Health(Care)

Mindfulness is all about paying attention. It's amazing what can be accomplished when mindfulness is applied to systems that need all the attention they can get. If there's an industry that needs some CPR and TLC, it's healthcare.

Cindy Jimmerson is a 30-year trauma nurse who is passionate about streamlining healthcare processes. Her consulting company, Lean HealthCare West, is blasting through always-done-it-that-way thinking to reduce waiting time for patients, eliminate staff errors, and save hospitals and patients millions of dollars.

She is the Queen of Lean in hospitals, and she's on a mission to improve the health of our country's largest industry--$1.76 trillion in 2002, and soon to explode as the baby-boomers hit their sixties.

When it comes to looking for powerful tools for transforming processes, we're fortunate to have a proven model that continues to outperform peers around the world. The Toyota Production System was originally developed by an American, W. Edwards Deming, who couldn't get anyone in the U.S. to pay attention to his approach. The Japanese listened and learned. Today, TPS continues to propel industries toward greater productivity, less waste, improved quality, and increased workplace appreciation.

Cindy's firm takes TPS straight to the ER and beyond. Now, you might think that a model focusing on getting product moved through the assembly line more efficiently is completely inappropriate for handling human patients. You would be dead wrong.

TPS focuses on adding value to what matters most--in this case, caring for patients. In doing so, it takes a hard look at every step taken which results in less contact with those who need care. The customer is king, and in healthcare, the customer is the patient. Instead of developing ways to make hospitals more profitable by relegating the patient to widget status, TPS restores the patient as the primary focus. How refreshing!

There's a common misconception that people do not like change. I happen to love rearranging rooms every season. However, I'd probably get a little cranky if I walked into my house and found that someone else had moved all the furniture.

The real story is that people do not like change that is imposed upon them, but they appreciate being part of the solution. Employees using TPS love having the opportunity to creatively explore options that allow them to perform their work with greater efficiency. And why not? It helps them reconnect to the best parts of their job.

Toyota walks its talk. It would be one thing if the company had a policy of being "open to suggestions" while rarely making any changes. But Toyota consistently acts on its employees' recommendations. In fact, the most recent figures indicate that the company implemented 99% of its yearly total of over 700,000 employee ideas!

That same emphasis on valuing the knowledge and experience of employees and trusting them to develop better processes is the key to tackling healthcare's estimated waste--a whopping 50%.

TPS is mindfulness in action--paying attention to extra steps, inconvenient sequences, and indirect communication. The best part? Anyone can do it.

Doctors, nurses and other hospital workers are hard-working, compassionate people who are committed to providing their patients with top-notch care. Broken systems get in the way. Mindful management can repair those systems, and in the process, everyone wins.

Mindfulness at work? It works.

Talk to your doctor about getting lean.

About The Author

Maya Talisman Frost is a mind masseuse offering specialized mindfulness training to indiviuals and corporate groups in the Pacific Northwest. To subscribe to her free weekly ezine, visit To learn more about lean healthcare, visit


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