As our firm has embarked on our Lean design initiative (See "Total Immersion in Lean Design" from the August 2012 issue of HEALTHCARE DESIGN), we have come to realize its importance. 

In addition, we know the Lean design approach is applicable to our three primary market segments: healthcare, higher education, and research; but has its most promising reward in the healthcare industry.

Following the completion of our first three Lean design workshops (which included 30 BSA LifeStructures employees), we have already realized the positive process improvements we anticipated. Most importantly, we have created a positive impact in our firm’s culture and philosophy. 

After first six months of this initiative, here are the important takeaways and some of the lessons we have learned:

  • The completion of the Lean training and the Yellow Belt Certification is not the real goal. Instead, the pursuit of continuous improvement and perfection is the ultimate goal.
  • The training has established a common language and understanding among our planners and designers, and with our clients.
  • Our healthcare clients realize we have an understanding and awareness of Lean and Six Sigma processes that they use, which has helped us understand their goals and objectives. And, like us, are in the pursuit of continuous improvement.
  • Lean design is applicable to our own multidisciplinary firm improvement opportunities. After starting this initiative, we have seen the passion in the firm’s employees to improve our internal operations.
  • With the changes surrounding healthcare, the opportunities for Lean design and process improvement are very significant. Healthcare organizations recognize the need to change and to adopt efficient processes to prepare for reform.
  • The fundamental principles of Lean, eliminating waste and pursuing continuous improvement, have allowed the firm to streamline work processes and identify the root cause of wasted movement and processes. This has not only helped our operations as an organization, but has also improved how we serve our clients and collaborate.
  • Another fundamental of Lean is improving the outcomes for the customer. Doing that means aligning our goals with the goals of the hospital. In healthcare, that means helping patients achieve higher patient satisfaction and improving patient outcomes.

The Lean design journey will take years for BSA LifeStructures to truly reach its ultimate potential. We are off to an excellent start and are on the road to continuous improvement.

Gary Vance is the Director of National Healthcare for BSA LifeStructures.Gary is a recognized thought leader in healthcare planning and design, providing hospitals with creative solutions to their facility problems. He also collaborates with various healthcare constituent groups to develop innovative solutions to operational, facility and organizational problems. He can be reached at For more information, please visit