How Does Lean Compare to IHI's Approach to QI?

Kevin Little, PhD; Principal, Informing Ecological Design, LLC; IHI Faculty

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Learning Objectives: At the end of this activity, you will be able to:
  • Identify at least one difference between Lean and the IHI approach to quality improvement.
  • Identify at least one similarity between Lean and the IHI approach to quality improvement.
  • Discuss how people familiar with Lean and people familiar with the IHI approach to quality improvement can learn from each other.

Description: If you’re trying to make an improvement in health care, should you use the Model for Improvement or Lean production? Do you have to choose one? Can you use elements of both? In this IHI Open School short, Improvement Advisor Kevin Little answers these questions and discusses several key points from the IHI White Paper he co-authored, Comparing Lean and Quality Improvement.

Discussion Questions:
  1. What are the basic concepts and principles of IHI’s approach to quality improvement and Lean? How are the two models similar? How are they different?
  2. For what purposes is IHI’s quality improvement model the most appropriate approach? For what purposes is Lean the best approach?
  3. Why might it be useful to include elements of Lean and the Model for Improvement in your improvement work? Think of specific examples if you can.
  4. Have you led improvement work using Lean and/or the Model for Improvement? What lessons from your experiences can you share?
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