Gemba in Action – Massaki Imai North American Visit

In early April, the “Lean Guru”, Massaki Imai the father of continuous improvement came to North America with a two-fold agenda (three-fold if you count a visit with his daughter and family in Phoenix).

In January of this year, the Kaizen Institute had merged with Lean Advisors of Ottawa and it was important for Mr. Imai to personally meet with Larry Coté, the CEO of Lean Advisors and his team of consultants to share values and philosophies.

Mr. Imai was intrigued by the great success that Lean Advisors have achieved for their major clients, implementing continuous improvement in the Health Care field. In keeping with his Gemba philosophy of personally going where the work gets done, arrangements were made for him to visit the Ministry of Health in Regina, the Luther Midelfort – Mayo Health System in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and the Toronto Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. He wanted to meet with senior management and to visit the hospitals and labs, as well as vaccine supply management and other areas that could validly measure their success. He wanted to ‘see’ for himself, engage the employees and make suggestions for further improvement.

In Regina Mr. Imai met senior management, including the Minister and Deputy Minister of Health and express/impress the need for ongoing, high level support. This was followed by extensive tours of various facilities and shop floor immersion with staff, who clung to every word. Mr. Imai commented that “If Kaizen is present you can feel it in the air”–and he certainly felt it in every facility he visited.

At Luther Midelfort, he was taken on a tour of four facilities where staff proudly displayed their improvements. This would have made a great commercial, staff standing by with pride beaming from their faces as department heads described life before and after Lean. And, all of this in the presence of their spiritual leader Massaki Imai.

Mr. Imai’s afternoon address was given to a standing room only audience with live broadcast to six other Mayo locations. His address, as always, was given with humour, interesting/relevant case studies and anecdotes.

The final visit in Canada was to the Toronto Sick Kids Hospital. The first order was a Directors Forum where Mr. Imai learned how his Lean Philosophy had helped improve processes in DPLM, POCU and Hematology/Oncology. This session was followed by a tour of DPML and the OR to see Lean in action.

Wherever Mr. Imai went, he charmed the crowd with stories, examples and advice on implementing sustainable continuous improvement. The Hospital had spent years looking for a better way to eliminate waste, variation, and work imbalance to improve processes, productivity and customer/staff satisfaction, and found “…. the better way turned out to be Lean”.

As with each visit, the audience left with a much deeper understanding of Gemba/ Kaisen/Lean and Continuous Improvement, delighted that the MAN had come down from the mountain to pass on his knowledge and wisdom, personally. Lasting memories and friendships have been formed that will serve these Lean Advisors’ clients well into the future.