Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, published author, professional speaker, and blogger. He builds upon a deep education in engineering and management with practical experience working with executives and frontline employees in multiple industries to synthesize and practice methods including Lean management, continuous improvement, statistical methods, and people-centered leadership approaches.
Mark’s motivation is to humbly help others learn how to improve and sustain performance. In his healthcare work, this means improving the quality of care and patient safety, while also reducing cost and improving the workplace experience. Across multiple sectors, goals also include improving the customer (or patient) experience, to help the development of leaders and employees, and to build stronger, more adaptive organizations for the long term.
He has learned, practiced, and taught these methodologies in settings including manufacturing, healthcare, and technology startups. Working independently since 2010, and in partnership with other consulting groups, Mark enjoys working with organizations that are looking for better ways to improve, with leaders who are willing to lead that change.
Mark also consults part time as a Senior Advisor for healthcare clients with the firm Value Capture. He is also a Senior Advisor to the technology and software company KaiNexus.
His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, a management book about using simple, yet practical statistical methods that help leaders at all levels overreact less to their metrics, which frees up time for real, focused, sustainable improvement.
Mark is also the author of the book Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Engagement (Productivity Press), which was selected for a 2009 Shingo Research and Professional Publication Award, the first healthcare book to win this award. The book has been translated into eight languages. A 3rd edition was released in 2016.
Mark has also co-authored a second book, titled Healthcare Kaizen: Engaging Front-Line Staff in Sustainable Continuous Improvements, also a Shingo Research Award recipient. A newly revised and condensed edition, The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen: Leadership for a Continuously Learning and Improving Organization is also available.
He also edited and contributed to an anthology titled Practicing Lean: Learning How to Learn How to Get Better… Better, a book of reflections and lessons learned about change, growth, and Lean management written by Mark and 15 other authors from various industries.
He is the founder, lead blogger, and podcaster at LeanBlog.org, started in January 2005. See a list of his other articles and publications. He is also a “LinkedIn Influencer,” where he contributes articles on leadership and business for a broader audience.
Mark earned a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from Northwestern University as well as a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA as a Fellow in the MIT Sloan Leaders for Global Operations Program.
Mark has worked in automotive (General Motors), the PC industry (Dell), and industrial products (Honeywell). At Honeywell, Mark was certified as a “Lean Expert” (equivalent to “Lean Black Belt”). He has also worked for two software and technology startup companies.
From 2005 to 2009, Mark was a senior consultant with ValuMetrix Services, then a division of Johnson & Johnson, where he led many successful improvement projects with sustainable results in the United States, Canada, and England.
From June 2009 to June 2011, Mark was a Senior Fellow with the Lean Enterprise Institute. In that role, he served as the Director of Communication & Technology for the Healthcare Value Network, a collaboration of healthcare organizations from across North America, a partnership between LEI and Catalysis (formerly the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value).
Mark is a popular speaker at conferences and private company events. Mark has been a speaker and coach for organizations across the U.S., in multiple provinces across Canada, and other countries including Finland, Holland, Sweden, Japan, Thailand, and China.
He has guest lectured at schools including MIT, Wharton, the UT Health Science Center Clinical Safety and Effectiveness course, and Ohio State University and has served as a faculty member for the Lean Enterprise Institute, Catalysis, and Studer Group. He has been quoted and interviewed in many publications, including Health Affairs and the New York Times.
Mark has been honored as a Diplomate member of the Society for Health Systems. He serves on the board of the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, the board of the AME Southwest Region, and on the advisory board for the Michigan Lean Consortium.
Psychological Safety as a Foundation for Continuous Improvement
Mark’s keynote will explore the connections between Psychological Safety and Continuous Improvement, using examples from Toyota, KaiNexus, and other companies. Mark will explore how we can assess the current state of Psychological Safety in teams or across a broader organization. He’ll also discuss what leaders can do to help create conditions where employees feel safe enough to speak up about mistakes, problems, and improvement ideas. His latest book, available now, is titled The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation.
The Mistakes That Make Us… Better
We all make mistakes, even the most successful people we know. Are people successful because they avoid mistakes or because they make sure to learn from them? Mark Graban thinks it’s the latter based on podcast conversations with corporate CEOs, athletes, entrepreneurs, and entertainers – and former Toyota employees.
Are we willing to admit mistakes to ourselves, let alone our colleagues, employees, or leaders? Do our organizations create a culture where it’s safe to talk about mistakes as a first step toward preventing future mistakes? Can we shift from blaming and shaming to building a culture of continuous improvement?
In this talk, you will learn and hear impactful stories and lessons about:
• Why it’s important to admit mistakes
• How to reflect on mistakes without being too hard on ourselves (or others)
• How to prevent repeating mistakes
• What key leader behaviors create a culture where it’s safe for people to admit mistakes
When Being Right is the Wrong Strategy for Change
Successful organizations have learned how to engage everybody in improvement and innovation. That’s easier said than done when leaders and change agents have bad habits, including pushing change on others, from the top down or from a position of expertise. Having the “right” solution to a problem or the “right” strategy for an organization means nothing if you can’t get alignment and buy-in from others. In this keynote, Mark Graban shares personal stories and practical strategies for shifting your approach to change, combining proven methods used in multiple industries.
React Less and Improve More: Learning How to Distinguish Signal from Noise in Metrics
Leaders are often caught between being short on time and having to make accurate assessments of performance. By using simple statistical methods, we can avoid overreacting to every up and down in our performance measures, though, saving time and reducing frustration by not asking for “special cause” explanations for data points that are essentially noise in the system. Mark Graban will share expert tactics for shifting leadership focus from the old standby of drilling into random metrics to instead using data points correctly to systematically improve overall performance for the long term.
Measures of Success: From Data to Knowledge That Drives Improvement
As health systems are focusing more on a balanced set of improvement metrics from the front line to the boardroom, it's important that “data-driven” decision making is based on a statistically-valid view of performance metrics. Without the skills and mindsets discussed in this talk, leaders at all levels risk creating waste that's caused by overreacting to every fluctuation in performance. This talk describes a practical methodology for evaluating performance measures that allow organizations to ask the right questions and to focus on improvement in a way that best improves outcomes.
Healthcare Kaizen — Engaging Front-Line Staff in Sustainable Continuous Improvements
Leading healthcare organizations are discovering the benefits of engaging all staff members and clinicians in ongoing quality and process improvement efforts. Some organizations are saving millions each year based on the small ideas implemented by staff and managers. But, it sounds easier than it is. In this talk, Mark Graban describes key principles, the mechanics of a working Kaizen approach, and the important role and behaviors required of leaders at all levels.
Versions of this talk include short overviews, half-day interactive workshops, and longer working sessions that help you start creating a culture of continuous improvement – today.
“How Lean Thinking Helps Hospitals” (tailored for healthcare or non-healthcare audiences)
How does Lean help hospitals? Lean helps your leaders and staff work together to improve patient safety and quality, reduce waiting times, reduce cost, and more! In this talk, Mark Graban provides an engaging overview of the Lean methodology and its powerful applications in various healthcare settings. Moving beyond mere tools, Graban’s talk illustrates the foundations of Lean as a management system and an organizational culture, using examples and lessons learned from his work and leading hospitals around the world.
This talk can be anything from a one-hour overview, a longer in-depth session, or a facilitated discussion with senior leaders that helps clarify your organization's plan and progress.
It’s All About the Patient: Using Lean to Improve Safety, Flow, and Satisfaction
“Lean” is a holistic approach to quality and process improvement. Lean combines tools with a management system, all built on a consistent philosophy. In a Lean environment, we’re driven to focus on the customer and the things that matter most. In hospitals, that includes patient safety, patient flow, and patient satisfaction. How can we reduce risk and harms, reduce delays, and reduce annoyances that lead to low marks from patients? We can do so, in part, by engaging everybody in the improvement process.
In an era of value-based purchasing, readmission rate penalties, and HCAHPS scores factoring into reimbursement, focusing on the patient leads to better financial performance. Through Lean, lower costs are a result of doing everything else well… putting the patient first. In this talk, Mark Graban will explain these principles, share examples, and facilitate discussions that will make this all very practical for you.
Key Lean Mindsets for Healthcare
As organizations progress with Lean, it's natural for them to shift from just implementing a few tools and completing a few projects. The best Lean organizations have embraced “Lean thinking” and that includes the key mindsets that shape our culture and drive the behaviors that create change and sustain excellence.
In this talk, Mark Graban shares key Lean mindsets, pairing the important conceptual background of Lean with real-world stories that bring these principles to life, vividly contrasting traditional healthcare thinking with Lean thinking. Using the mindsets explained in this talk will increase your chances for success, speeding up your Lean journey.
This talk can be tailored to your particular hospital or medical specialty, with examples that will be relevant and engaging.
Why Your Hospital Should be Like a Factory… Or At Least Some!
Healthcare professionals often say things like “we don’t want assembly-line medicine” or “we can’t turn our hospital into a factory.” What fears are behind those statements? Do people in health care picture factories as cold, robotic, frantic, unthinking workplaces?
Actually, a Lean factory is one where employees always have the supplies, equipment, and time needed to do their job the right way, safely, every time. A Lean factory is one where employees quickly speak up when they see a problem (or even when they make a mistake) and managers run to help. A Lean factory is a more humanistic environment that produces better quality, lower cost, and happier employees. The same can be true in healthcare!
In this keynote, Mark Graban talks about the culture and characteristics of Lean factories, giving examples of how patients and staff members would be better off with the adoption of the Lean culture and management system – to help hospitals be the highest quality and most caring environments, as well as being more satisfying workplaces for all.
Improving quality, outcomes, and patient satisfaction
“Putting the Continuous Back into Continuous Improvement”
Engaging Staff to Design the Hospital of Tomorrow (“lean design” and “lean construction”)
Practical Daily Lean Management Methods
Lean in Hospital Laboratories
Using Lean to Improve Patient Flow
A specific topic can be crafted for your event based on a consultation with Mark
General Lean Leadership and Employee Engagement
Be Lean, Not L.A.M.E.
You want to be “Lean,” not “lame,” right? In this engaging talk, Mark shares stories and examples that illustrate the difference between true Lean management practices and methods that engage employees, as opposed to those that are, instead, “L.A.M.E.” The acronym that Mark coined, which stands for “Lean As Misguidedly Executed,” is meant to describe practices that might sound “Lean,” but anger and alienate employees, customers, or shareholders. This keynote will help you prevent repeating some of the painful and expensive mistakes made by others.
Today's Effective Leader: Shifting from Cop to Coach and Counselor
How often do we hear phrases like “If only people would just do what they’re told” and “They’re being resistant to change?” Organizations with better quality and higher levels of performance make the shift from a culture of compliance to a culture of continuous improvement.
Learn how to start or sustain this culture change through the proven methods shared in Mark Graban's talk. Using real-life examples, Mark shares practical approaches for changing the way you lead to engaging everybody in ongoing and sustainable continuous improvement. The talk also introduces some innovation mindsets and tactics from a surprising place: clinical counseling and addiction therapy. This “Motivational Interviewing” approach has helped Toyota and other companies realize that “resistance to change” is a natural part of the change process. What might appear to be “resistance” should be the start of a conversation about change, not the end.
Engaging Employees in Improvement: Everybody, Everywhere, Every Day
The suggestion box is dead — but long live improvement! Today's leading businesses are engaging employees in a different style of improvement called Kaizen. In this talk, you will learn proven improvement methods and the leadership styles and behaviors that support them. In a Kaizen culture, you don't have to force people to improve – they willingly participate. Employees, customers, and the business all win. Let Mark Graban show you how.
What's Your Problem? Important Ideas for Better Problem Solving
What's your problem? Sometimes that problem includes not understanding your problem well, to begin with.
In the Lean management methodology, people often talk about root cause problem solving, including simple and proven methods like “the 5 whys.” Before asking “why?” it's critically important to accurately and precisely define your problem. Tips like these, illustrated by examples from multiple organizations, will help your leaders and staff become better problem solvers, which means your organization will be more successful.
Warning: Signs! From Cautionary Circulars to Proactive Prevention
In this presentation, Mark Graban humorously raises serious points. Why do healthcare organizations so frequently rely on posted signs, warnings and “be careful” exhortations with staff members? Mark presents a practical taxonomy of these signs and leads a discussion about alternative approaches that identify the root causes and truly help prevent these problems that harm patients or staff far too often.
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