What is needed for Hiring for a Lean Culture?



20100422 300x225 Reader Question: Hiring for a Lean Culture in Healthcare? leanHere’s a question from a healthcare leader that I thought I’d share for input from you, the blog readers.

This person is looking to change their hiring and people “sourcing” practices, after visiting ThedaCare and learning about their “Human Development Value Stream” work.

Based on your experience, what do you think are the most important characteristics/attributes a person needs to have to be successful in a Lean organization?  We want to define this for both frontline staff and management.

We need to clearly describe the future state culture we are aiming for and then the associated characteristics of the staff that are likely to fit and be successful.

My response:


That’s a great question.

I recall a former client of mine (Children’s Medical Center Dallas, in the laboratory) had started putting some lean characteristics into job postings (including some things like – paraphrasing – “a willingness to participate in continuous improvement efforts” and some things like that). They were pretty direct in terms of making that a hiring criteria in the hopes that some people would self-select out if they just wanted to do their job without participating in kaizen and Lean. I guess you could ask behavioral interviewing questions like “tell me about a time when you participated in a process improvement” and things like that.

I think Lean organizations start hiring not just for technical skills, but also for attitude and personal characteristics. They’re less interested in getting “any warm body” (an expression I hate) or a technically skilled person with stunted team skills and interpersonal skills.

So we could talk a lot about the characteristics of team members, but I think the better question (and more impactful one) is the characteristics of leaders in a Lean environment. I’ve found most front-line staff will participate in Lean and continuous improvement… it’s the leaders who will (or won’t) set the tone that is more of a crapshoot.

John Toussaint’s description of a lean leader is a great one:

  • Patient
  • Knowledgeable
  • Facilitator
  • Teacher
  • Student
  • Helper
  • Communicator
  • Guide

It’s a meaty question… what characteristics would you add, for leaders or individual team members? Has your organization starting hiring differently for Lean?…More at Reader Question: Hiring for a Lean Culture in Healthcare? – Lean Blog