Credentials & Experience

Why do credentials and experience matter? Because it’s too easy to find a consultant with little or no real-world experience. They might tout a “Lean Six Sigma Belt” of some color, but what does that mean? Have they ever completed any projects or successfully led others in improving their organization? WHO did they learn from?

These are important questions and the answers matter.

Why Trust Mark Graban?

Anybody can label themselves as a Lean consultant, a “thought leader” or a “sensei.” It’s easy to basically buy a “belt” certification online.

It’s important to know about the background of who you are trusting as a speaker, author, or consultant.  I’m not somebody who took a one-week class and labeled himself an expert. I’ve made Lean my career’s focus for nearly 20 years now – built on a foundation of studying Dr. Deming’s work when I was an undergraduate engineering student at Northwestern University. I formally studied Lean in the classroom at Northwestern and as a master’s student at MIT… but what really matters is the on-the-job learning and mentoring I have received.

Another thing to consider is that I haven’t just studied Lean… nor do I just write or speak about Lean… I’ve rolled up my sleeves and led and participated in Lean transformations in manufacturing and healthcare organizations, doing real work that mattered.

You should ask any consultant:

  • What do you know?
  • Who did you learn it from?
  • How are you continuing to learn?
  • What can you do, in practice?

Learning from NUMMI via GM

I was fortunate to have my first job, from 1995 to 1997, at a General Motors plant — not because it was a Lean plant, because it wasn’t. But, the plant had a number of internal consultants who had been hired from Toyota suppliers and Nissan. They taught me about the Lean methods and the Lean management mindsets. See this blog post about where I got started with Lean.

I was fortunate to learn a great deal from Larry Spiegel, who was brought in as our plant manager in 1996 after some major quality problems. Larry was one of the first GM people to work at the famed NUMMI plant and he brought those lessons to our plant. Larry said a few words in this amazing “This American Life” piece about the lessons learned from NUMMI.

Formal Certification at Honeywell

When I worked at my last manufacturing company, Honeywell, I was selected to be a student in their formal Black Belt-style “Lean Expert” certification program.  This was a program taught by “Lean Masters” who had significant Lean experience inside Honeywell and elsewhere. I participated in four week-long classroom sessions and completed a certification project that improved operations in a department – including a significant increase in on-time delivery to our internal customers. While at Honeywell, I worked for a director who previously worked for Danaher, regarded as one of the world’s best Lean companies and I learned a lot from him.

Teaching and Conferences

I have been trusted to teach and be a faculty members by leading organizations like the Lean Enterprise Institute, the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, and the Shingo Institute. I have been a guest lecturer, brought in by professors from MIT, the Wharton School of Business, and The Ohio State University. I appreciate the trust they place in me to share a compelling message that’s an accurate representation of the Lean methodology. See more about my speaking and teaching.


Process matters, being accurate in teaching Lean matters, but results matter too. I have worked with healthcare organizations, helping them (they get the credit) lead and achieve sustained results such as:

  • Reducing laboratory test turnaround times by 50-70%
  • Improving lab productivity by 30%, allowing to do more testing over time without adding more staff
  • Reducing outpatient MRI waiting times from 13 weeks to 2.5 weeks
  • Improving primary care clinic productivity, going from chronically losing money to actually being in the black
  • Increasing employee engagement survey scores
  • Reducing patient falls by 70-80%

You can see some published case studies and results via this page.


John Toussaint, MD, former CEO of ThedaCare, a leading Lean healthcare organization, wrote in his Foreword to the 2nd edition of Lean Hospitals:

“I believe starting with Mark Graban’s updated book Lean Hospitals is a good first step. Mark Graban knows what he is talking about with Lean. Mark has dedicated his career to learning and teaching the Lean methodology to healthcare professionals, and this book is a testament to that. He includes new learnings and examples that give the book more depth, with the intent to try to help us all deliver lower-cost and higher-quality patient care — better value.

I wish I could have read this in 2004, as it might have prevented some of the mistakes we made in our Lean journey.

In this book, Mark has written about some of the new thinking that is the core of Lean, such as focusing on the process and getting away from blaming individuals. These new mindsets, along with the Lean techniques described here, are the keys to reducing errors, improving quality, freeing up more time for patient care, and improving patient flow.

Richard Shannon, MD, a long-time leader in applying Lean to patient safety, says:

“Mark Graban is the consummate translator of the vernacular of the Toyota Production System into the everyday parlance of health care. With each concept and its application, the reader is challenged to consider what is truly possible in the delivery of health care if only standardized systems borrowed from reliable industries, were implemented. Graban provides those trade secrets in an understandable and transparent fashion.”

Jeffrey K. Liker, Professor, University of Michigan and author of the Toyota Way series says:

“Many health care consultants have rebadged themselves as lean consultants and do not understand the real thinking behind the Toyota Production System. Mark Graban is an exception. He has worked hard to study the philosophy and stay true to the thinking of Toyota . His book is a welcome translation of the Toyota Production System into language any health care professional can understand.”

See more endorsements related to Lean Hospitals.