Sunday, March 24, 2013

Another High Impact LEAN Book: "Follow the Learner"




A few years ago, I found myself at a Lean Enterprise Institute event with a slight dilemma. It was right after lunch, and I noticed that I had previously attended all of the presentations that were available in one particular time slot. Except one. It was something about a lean dentist in Jacksonville, FL. Oh what the hell, it was too far to my hotel room for a nap. Fast forward 90 minutes. I was excited. Pumped. Fired up. 

The speaker's name was Dr. Sami Bahri. He did the presentation with the help of two people from his dental practice. The first thing that got my attention was the fact he had no waiting room. No chairs, couches or magazines. Show up & just go in. Something UN-American about that, right? Here is a list of the five things that fired me up about Dr. Bahri that day.  

1. First is his humility. It requires a total lack of ego to involve everyone in his practice to improve conventional processes for the sole benefit of the patient. In fact, the office sets aside hours each week to focus on improvements. Lean does NOT work top-down, or in the presence of a hierarchical bureaucracy. It just doesn't. In most cases, there is nothing more top-down than healthcare. Not at Bahri Dental Group.

2. A never wavering, laser-like focus on his customer. Dr. Bahri believes conventional processes were for the benefit of the dentist, not the customer. Imagine sitting in your dentist's chair, and everyone comes to you, without waiting? The hygienist, the doctor, scheduling your next appointment, insurance questions? Then you get to get up and leave. When was the last time you showed up for a doctor visit on time, only to find yourself waiting for 20 minutes to be called in? 
3. Persistence. Sami was fascinated by the potential of TPS some 18 years ago. It took 13 years of experimentation (PDCA) to begin to truly impact his customer’s experience, but he and his staff worked together and are still at it. He proves that the only way to do it wrong is to do nothing. Everything else is reversible if it doesn't work. There was no manual on how to do lean dentistry!  He invented it from scratch.
4. Dr. Bahri validates that good lean is market disruptive. I’ve spoken to one of his patients, and the experience is mind-boggling.  Imagine if you are a competitor in Jacksonville and you find out Dr. Bahri’s patients don’t wait? At all? Ever? Imagine patients that move out of Jacksonville and have to go to some poor new dentist. Think they've been spoiled?

5. He validates once and for all that lean and the basic people philosophy of TPS is not about cars. That notion can no longer be argued. It’s dead.


A great read is Dr. Bahri's 88 page book, "Follow the Learner-The Role of the Leader in Creating a Lean Culture". Pick this book up. You will find yourself, like me, reading it more than once. It is an absolutely incredible reminder why we bother to do lean in the first place. 

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