Paging Dr. Lean for Health Care Solutions: Show Me Your Orchard

Friday, May 9, 2014

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Christie Clinic CEO Alan Gleghorn spoke with Target Online about what he views as the three biggest health care challenges. He told us a story. "My grandfather, Henry Gleghorn, was passionate about fruit trees," he said. "Grandpa lived in Seymour, TX, not the best place to grow fruit." But Gleghorn thought about his grandfather and how he planted and cared for his orchard, and when the younger Gleghorn was faced with instituting continuous improvement and culture change at Christie Clinic, he remembered what his grandfather said: "Show me your orchard."

You see, Gleghorn realized the challenges were not that dissimilar. His grandfather had three fruit-growing principles that he lived and worked by — successful orchards need the right amount of sunlight, good cultivated ground and no weeds. Farmers don't harvest fruit the first year. It takes time and attention to establish a strong root system to withstand the external forces that fight the farmer — drought, storms, insects and cold spells.  

Alan Gleghorn: You should re-examine all of your existing processes as an experiment
Alan Gleghorn: You should re-examine all of your existing processes as an experiment.

"Grandpa knew he couldn't control Mother Nature, but if he set a good foundation, his orchard would thrive and prosper in time. He stuck to what he knew best — the basics — and left the rest to Mother Nature."

His grandfather warned Alan to only take advice from those who had fruit on their trees. When Gleghorn tackled lean changes, despite an abundance of "lean experts," he knew to ask, "What culture have you built that's bearing fruit? Show me your orchard."

Alan Gleghorn and his grandfather surveying the orchard.

Although his grandfather grew only apricots, peaches and plums, he was not afraid to experiment. If he heard of a more drought-resistant species, he would order it. Although the fruit may not have been as sweet, when grafted onto the less hardy root stalk the result was a nearly perfect apricot crop.

"One of the things about moving your organization forward is that you ought to be re-examining all of your existing processes as an experiment,” Gleghorn said. “In health care, we have lots of opportunities. Try to create an environment where experimenting is encouraged.

"At Christie, we are working hard to build a culture that drives improvement. Our 800 team members in 16 facilities generate 1,000 ideas per month. Those are impressive numbers, but our goal is to hit 2,000 per month by the end of the year. In March, we hit 1,289, so we'll continue to crank it, from doctors to housekeeping and maintenance."



Patricia Moody
Patricia Moody

Named by Fortune magazine a "Pioneering Woman in Manufacturing," Patricia E. Moody, The Mill Girl at Blue Heron, is a business visionary, author of 14 business books and hundreds of features. A manufacturing and supply management consultant for more than 30 years, her client list includes Fortune 100 companies as well as start-ups. She is the publisher of Blue Heron Journal, where she created the Made In The Americas (sm), the Education for Innovation (sm) and the Paging Dr. Lean (sm) series. Her next book about the future of manufacturing is The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Copyright Patricia E. Moody 2013. With permission.