Book Review: The New Lean Healthcare Pocket Guide

Lean Heathcare Pocket GuideThe New Lean Healthcare Pocket Guide, by Debra Hadfield, Shelagh Holmes, Sue Kozlowski and Todd Sperl, published by MCS Media.

This guide is genuinely pocket-sized: it’s 14cm x 9cm (3.5 inches x 5.5 inches). It takes up a little more room than that because of its spiral binding, but it fits easily in a coat pocket. There is a larger size version of it also available.

It may be small, but this little book packs a lot of information, examples and suggestions into its 226 pages. . It opens with a general introduction to Lean, and to the use of Lean in healthcare, and includes some examples in this opening section. The remainder of the book is an alphabetical list of Lean topics, with a focus on how to apply each tool or technique, and accompanied by a practical example of its use. The book ends with a Lean Glossary, and an index.

For example, the section on takt time, a commonly used measure in Lean, is three pages long. The text defines takt time, estimates how long it takes to calculate, and then gives a worked example of the calculation, followed by a list of key points. All the sections follow this structure. Looking at a longer section on Standard Work, the same process is used. Standard Work is defined, its importance briefly explained, and some of the relevant tools introduced – in this case, the Standard Work Combination Table and the Standard Work Sheet. Examples of the use of each tool are give, and there is a brief case study. Inevitably for any work on Lean, terms used in some parts of the book vary from other authors, but the methods described are all relevant, no matter which precise term is used.

Illustrations are a strength of this book, although the small size of the volume is a challenge in some of the photographs and diagrams, trading off increased accessibility of the volume for a smaller illustration size. Still, the illustrations are clear and useful.

The main challenge in using the book for people new to Lean is in separating out the important from the interesting, and in identifying which approach to take in what situation. The alphabetical tools listing approach makes it easy to find things, but the book is easier to use if you already have an inkling of which tool or technique is relevant.

In practice, the book could be used in three ways. It is possible to take this book and, from scratch, learn some background to Lean, and try out some methods using the examples. It is not the best book for this purpose – Mark Graban’s books are better introductions – but it does contain enough material to make this a possible use.

Second, the book lends itself to use with a study group, because of its structure. Taking a topic to review at each meeting would be useful, and with a coach present to put the method in context, would work well.

Finally, and probably the main intended use of the book, is as a pocket reference to particular techniques for people who already have some familiarity with them. It is useful for formulae, examples and definitions, and certainly justifies its modest price tag. It sells for about $17 in the US and, in the usual mysterious accountancy methods of book sellers, at about £17 in the UK.

If you have heard some of the Lean terms before, and want to be able to look them up easily with some contextualised examples, this is a good purchase.

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