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Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn

by Eric Buehrens & Alice Lee
January 18, 2018

Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn

by Eric Buehrens & Alice Lee
January 18, 2018 | Comments (1)

Eric Buehrens, LEI CEO, describes how his personal transformation into a lean leader advanced a crucial organizational transformation of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he and Alice Lee, LEI executive director, worked together for five years.

In a candid 2017 Lean Talks session, Eric describes being hired as COO of the 100-year-old academic medical center right after it had survived a dire financial crisis.

“One of the things I decided when I got there was that if I tried to act like I had all the answers I’d probably embarrass myself,” Eric recalls. As an executive on the medical school side of the medical center, he knew he had a lot to learn about the hospital operations side. The challenge was how to go about learning.

You’ll hear: why Alice decided to have Eric learn, not in a classroom, but by visiting hospital departments; the “uncomfortable” first visits; a skeptical doctor’s reaction to shop-floor learning; reaching a crossroad for kaizen in a central sterilization unit; and much more.


  • :59 - “I’m getting fired.”
  • 1:33 - “Bleeding money from every pore.”
  • 3:24 - A lot to learn.
  • 3:54 - High anxiety gemba walks.
  • 4:48 - “The shop floor is a reflection of management.”
  • 5:39 – Senior leader training begins; “waste of time.”
  • 8:15 - Why shop floors make executives uncomfortable.
  • 10:34 - Finally getting traction with kaizen.
  • 13:10 - Big boss said “sorry.”

Are you interested in learning from other lean practitioners?

The pilot Lean Talks session at the 2017 Lean Transformation Summit was a hit, so we’re bringing them back for the 2018 Summit.

Save your seat now for Lean Talks, Monday evening, March 26, and register for the 2018 Lean Transformation Summit.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Keywords:  gemba,  healthcare,  leadership,  learning,  training
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1 Comment | Post a Comment
Gerry Cronin February 12, 2018
1 Person AGREES with this comment

Courage, humble tenacity and open-minded listenting on the floor transformed an important institution and saved lives.  Very inspirational.


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