Lean management principles have been used effectively in manufacturing companies for decades, particularly in Japan. Because of this, Lean is not typically associated with health care, where waste — of time, money, supplies, and good will — can be perceived as common. But the principles of lean management do, in fact, work in health care in much the same way they do in other industries, to streamline processes, reduce cost, and improve quality and timely delivery of products and services. Lean principles can be applied to the delivery of health care.

In order for Lean principles to take root, leaders must first work to create an organizational culture that is receptive to lean thinking. The commitment to Lean must start at the very top of the organization, and all staff should be involved in helping to redesign processes to improve flow and reduce waste.