PURPOSE: The purpose of this paper is to contribute toward a deeper understanding of the new roles, responsibilities, and job characteristics of employees in Lean healthcare organizations.
DESIGN/METHODOLOGY/APPROACH: The paper is based on three cases studies of healthcare organizations that are regarded as successful examples of Lean applications in the healthcare context. Data were collected by methods including interviews, observations, and document studies.
FINDINGS: The implementation of Lean in healthcare settings has had a great influence on the roles, responsibilities, and job characteristics of the employees. The focus has shifted from healthcare professionals, where clinical autonomy and professional skills have been the guarding principles of patient care, to process improvement and teamwork. Different job characteristics may make it difficult to implement certain Lean practices in healthcare. Teamwork and decentralization of authority are examples of Lean practices that could be considered countercultural because of the strong professional culture and uneven power distribution, with doctors as the dominant decision makers.
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS: Teamwork, value flow orientation, and company-wide involvement in CI were associated with positive effects on the organizations' working environment, staff development, and organizational performance.
ORIGINALITY/VALUE: In order to succeed with Lean healthcare, it is important to understand and recognize the differences in job characteristics between Lean manufacturing and healthcare. This paper provides insights into how Lean implementation changes the roles, responsibilities, and job characteristics of healthcare staff and the challenges and implications that may follow from this.
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2014. Vol. 28, no 2, 177-95 p.