In an industry that’s constantly evolving, managing change should not be a risky move. Dr. Gary Kaplan, chairman and CEO of Virginia Mason Health System in Seattle, has led his organization through an exercise in continuous improvement for the past 18 years. And that can be exhausting or energizing.
WHAT WAS YOUR RISKIEST DECISION? Adopting the Toyota production system as the foundation of our management system, what we call the Virginia Mason Production System, which is all about a relentless war on waste.
WHY WAS THAT MOVE RISKY? Back in 2001, the notion of looking to a management system for healthcare that was developed and refined in manufacturing was unheard of. There were people talking about principles of (W. Edwards) Deming back then, but the notion that we would spend time in factories that make air conditioners, automobiles, airplanes? Doctor thought we had lost our mind. I remember Paul O’Neill (the former Treasury secretary and Alcoa CEO who became active in the Institute for Project Japan Improvement) saying, “Virginia Mason is engaged in a bet-the-farm strategy on quality.” He knew at that time that we were embracing this management system because of what it meant to quality and safety, which was what it was really all about.