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Lean implementation within healthcare: imaging as fertile ground

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)869-884
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Health Organization and Management
Issue number8
Published14 Oct 2020

King's Authors


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to understand the barriers and enablers to lean implementation as part of an imaging quality improvement programme from a socio-cultural perspective. Design/methodology/approach: An in-depth 33 month ethnographic study, using observation and qualitative interviews, examined the process of lean implementation as part of an improvement programme. Findings: Implementation of lean was more successful compared with other reports of lean in healthcare settings. Key enablers of lean were high levels of multidisciplinary staff involvement and engagement; the professional credibility of facilitators and clinicians as early adopters, all within a wider culture of relatively strong inter-professional relationships in the imaging department. These enablers combined with the more routinised and standardised nature of imaging pathways compared to some other acute specialties suggest that imaging is fertile ground for lean, linked to the manufacturing origins of lean. Practical implications: When introducing lean within healthcare settings, special attention needs to be paid to the specific healthcare context and the existing cultures of inter-professional relationships. Fostering an improvement culture and engagement with training, together with adequate financial resource, are a key to contributing to the level of acceptability of an improvement tool such as lean. Originality/value: This ethnographic study, bringing together rich multi-source data, has provided a detailed insight into the cultural workings of the process of lean implementation within a complex healthcare system.

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