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Lean: Project teams

By Editor on 5/4/2016
IQMH upholds its promise to deliver high-quality products and services by maintaining processes that are regularly reviewed for continual improvement. This cycle of process improvement is evident in our well-established quality management system.  As an organization committed to continual improvement, it is natural for us to seek ways that support that goal and that’s where Lean comes in.

We have already seen many ways in which our Lean initiatives have had a positive impact on our organization:

  • Staff empowerment. Staff members know that they can make a change and a difference – the power is transferred to staff using a bottom-up management approach.  
  • Accountability by design. Staff members know the importance of taking ownership of defects and not passing them on. The use of the white boards has facilitated this change in behaviour. For more information on how to use white boards, read Lean: Creating a visual workplace.
  • Organizational culture change. Every effort is made to sustain the momentum of our message — continual improvement — by providing regular communication with all staff at general staff meetings, posting information on the progress of Lean projects, sharing quality quotes and tools.
Everyone in the organization has to believe in and support Lean, especially top management, in order for Lean to succeed and flourish.

It’s important to expose defects visually on a white board to support a blameless work environment. The purpose of this is to empower staff by allowing anyone in the organization to identify defects visually for all staff in the organization to see. By visually exposing defects, there is a more likely chance that process improvement will be initiated because staff will feel empowered to take ownership of the defect.

Project Teams. Every defect on the white board has a project champion. This is the individual that identified the defect on the whiteboard. It is the responsibility of the project champion, with the support of the IQMH Quality Improvement Committee (QIC) if necessary, to decide who should lead the Lean project. Once the project leader is chosen, that person is responsible for determining the qualified individuals that will become part of the Lean project team.

Selecting the Project Team. The Lean project leader will determine the project team members by forming a group that includes everyone that is involved in the current process related to the identified defect. It is critical to form a team with individuals involved in the current process, as this is where the defect lies. Focus on identifying staff that are involved in the current process inputs and outputs. Do not fall into the trap of identifying team members that you believe might be involved in the new process (after Lean has been applied to defect).

In order to agree on a common vision on how to streamline the process identified in a defect, limit your group size to 5–7 members. A group larger than this will be difficult to manage as too many differing opinions will hinder the determination of a strategy or plan; however, a smaller group may not have enough input to share, or enough experience with the process for your team to really understand the current process and determine ways to improve.

Next Steps. Now that you have a Lean project team leader and members, it is this group’s responsibility to meet and discuss the defect and map out the current process relating to the defect. The mapped-out current process is called a value stream map, which is one of the most critical steps of any Lean improvement initiative. The exercise of mapping out the current process gives the team a bird’s-eye view of what’s currently in practice, also commonly referred to as the “current state.” Constraints or restrictions in the process flow (bottlenecks) are identified between steps, and it is the elimination of these bottlenecks that will become the actual Lean improvement. Tackle the most critical and time-sensitive bottleneck first, but remember to tackle each bottleneck as a separate Lean improvement.

For a laboratory, this might mean it is necessary for the project team to go and see the process at the bench level to gain a better understanding of what is happening. This is otherwise known as “Genchi Genbutsu,” one of the core concepts in Japanese Lean manufacturing. Having a deeper understanding of the problem or root cause of the defect is paramount in determining a feasible solution.

Ready, set, go! Once you have your Lean projects identified and teams assembled, you are one step closer to streamlining your processes!

Tell us about your Lean efforts. The IQMH QIC members welcome your comments and feedback at or use the Comment field in this news blog post. You can ask us questions about our Lean efforts, share your experiences or tell us how you celebrate Lean in your organization.


continual improvement
quality improvement
quality team


Institute for Quality
Management in Healthcare

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