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The following interview with Chairman and CEO Dr Gary Kaplan and Transformation and Executive Sensei Dr Henry Otero, was conducted at a lean health care conference held in Kyushu, Japan, to share learnings between Virginia Mason and the Japanese health care industry.
In sharing their experiences on Virgina Mason’s lean health care transformation journey, Dr Kaplan and Dr Otero provide insights that holds lessons for any of us seeking to lead effective transformation and culture change within our own organizations.
And those discussions were the best when people started to talk about what their real hopes were for themselves and when we started to realize that things could be different. You didn’t have to be stuck in the way it was currently being done. You could see in front of you, what you are aspiring to. For some people, it was that switch – they just caught on fire.
That was the most important trip I have taken in my life.
Paul Smith, Ph D Director, Shinka Management View this page in Japanese/日本語 Dr Gary Kaplan is a practicing internal medicine physician, and has served as the Chairman and CEO of Virginia Mason Medical Center since 2000.
Dr Kaplan has led the adaption of the Toyota Production System to transform health care delivery within Virginia Mason, and has been the recipient of numerous awards and recognition for this work, including the John M.
But, when we were looking for a management method, we didn’t find it. So, we were beginning to think that maybe the answers were outside of the health care industry. Smith: When did you decide to take your executive team over to Japan? Dr Kaplan: Well, the people at Boeing said that if you were really serious, you need to go to the source, you need a deep immersion experience.
Dr Henry Otero, is a medical oncologist, and is a Transformation and Executive Sensei at the Virginia Mason Institute. Otero has led many process improvement events at Virginia Mason, with a focus on improving physician and executive engagement and creating ambulatory flow.The Virginia Mason Medical Center is based in Seattle, Washington.Since the Virginia Mason leadership’s first visit to Japan in 2002 to seek insights from Japanese manufacturing, the hospital has evolved into a leader in the application of lean principles to health care.Dr Otero: As I look across the organization, it is people’s focus on the patient and how they approach problems. What you keep seeing and hearing at Virginia Mason is people asking what’s best for the patient, and this guides us to which ideas we are going to implement and in what direction.I think this is the culture piece that I don’t see or hear anywhere else.
The development and implementation of the Virginia Mason Production System is a standout case study that holds lessons for any leader looking to adapt the principles of the Toyota Production System to a non-automotive environment.