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October 13, 2017

Value in Visiting the Work

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When a company uses Lean in its efforts to increase efficiency hand-in-hand with quality, we are asked to “Go to the Gemba”; that is, visit the “real place” where value is created and the work of the business is done. In my case, it is my job to go see, ask why, and show respect to the people on the front lines of caring for ThedaCare patients. This is where our value is created, in our clinics and hospitals, where science is known and the art of individualized medicine is applied.

Since arriving in Wisconsin in June, I have visited rural hospitals, urban clinics, regional medical centers, and critical access hospitals. Just two weeks ago, I put on surgical garb and went into the operating room at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton to hear directly from surgeons and OR staff about their procedures, equipment, and hopes for the future. Last week I sat with 50 members of the Waupaca Rotary who told me they are proud of their community and the role ThedaCare has played in improving the health in their community.

If I were to rely on synthesized reports and hand-picked advisors as my sole sources of information, I would miss out on the full range of genuine opinions, concerns, and accolades that I am hearing, firsthand, at each of my meetings and visits.

I hold as my personal principle the rule to listen before judging. I believe the better we know a situation and the people who affect it, the better decisions our leadership team can make. I believe a leader must present him or herself as a non-threatening, authentic listener to fully absorb the experiences and perspectives of his or her workforce. We must be present and open to hear these messages. It takes practice to slow down, tune in, and listen, before you can really speed up.

Dr. Imran Andrabi is president and CEO of ThedaCare. To contact him, you can email