I’d like to give you the background story to the series of remarkable events that led to Creger’s role in Lean transformation.
1: A chance meeting
The date was October 17, 2000. I was on my way from Seattle, Washington, to Madrid, Spain, to meet with the minister of health to discuss how Spain could improve its healthcare system through the application of Lean. My presentation to him was on my laptop computer.
As I settled into my seat, the businessman beside me introduced himself as Mike Rona, president of Virginia Mason Medical Center.
What an opportunity! Someone intimate with the healthcare field was right next to me—someone on whom I could try out my presentation. As we leveled out at 37,000 feet, I pulled out my laptop and said, “You really need to see this.”
When we headed for different connecting flights in Atlanta, I gave Rona a copy of my first Lean book A World Class Production System which the Boeing Company had sponsored. I figured I’d probably never hear from him again.
To my surprise, while still in Spain, I received an e-mail from Rona with more questions about Lean. Then I received a phone call asking me to meet with Rona and his boss, Dr. Gary Kaplan, Virginia Mason’s CEO.
2: A culture open to change
They kept asking me, “How can we do it?” I told them capacity could be increased without a big expenditure, but only if they agreed to my plan.
The plan I had in mind for Virginia Mason was similar to the one we’d applied at Boeing. First, start by focusing at the point most vital to serving the patient. In the case of VMMC, that meant the OR. Second, define the value stream, and designate a portion of that value stream as a model line—that is, an area of surgery where you could drill down a mile deep and an inch wide. Third, create a Kaizen Promotion Office (KPO) and establish the infrastructure to support kaizen.
3: A fight for great talent
Identifying talent: what made Creger and King so special?
1. Were highly competent in their field
2. Were respected by surgeons and their peers
3. Had a strong work ethic
4. Always put the patient first
5. Never said "I can't," "We don't have time," or "That won't work." They were willing to innovate.
Creger and King were absolutely integral to the improvement effort. Their willingness to work double-time, their agility in switching on to the KPO team, and their invaluable years of experience as OR nurses helped catapult VMMC to successful implementation. I wish Creger the best in her retirement, and will always remember the combination of circumstance and determined commitment to change that brought together such a dynamic team at Virginia Mason.