Case Studies

Case Studies

UMass Memorial Health Care: how to become a Lean organization? (Case) with reference 622-0031-1

UMass Memorial Health Care: how to become a Lean organization? (Teaching note) with reference 622-0031-8

Authors: Simone Laratro, Stefano Villa, Joseph Restuccia 


The UMass Memorial Healthcare case illustrates how system-wide Lean is implemented within a healthcare organization. In the last two decades, ‘Lean thinking’ has been rapidly growing in the healthcare context but only a few organizations have implemented it at system level. This case provides the history of a complex healthcare system describing how Lean has been developed, implemented, and adapted over a ten year period. Hence, the case provides a guideline for the application of Lean practices to healthcare. The case underlines the timeline and the different steps of a system-wide Lean implementation and thus can serve as a vehicle for students to discuss benefits as well as challenges of Lean implementation at a system-wide level. Students can examine and evaluate the strategy used by UMMHC and the management system developed by top management to embed Lean culture and practices into their organization. Hence, the UMMHC case represents a best practice of system-wide Lean implementation in healthcare sector, even if still in progress. A critical issue that emerged in literature is the prevailing focus on single processes, units or departments as well as specific principles or tools of Lean. Instead, Lean should be viewed and applied as a strategy to reach an holistic transformation and a 360-degree efficiency.

Teaching and learning

This item is suitable for undergraduate, postgraduate and executive education courses.

Learning objectives
  1. Learn how to develop a successful strategy and implement Lean management tools to a real case.
  2. Become familiar with common challenges of the hospital environment.
  3. Learn the importance of operations management and logistics in hospital management as well as the benefits of Lean management.
  4. Become familiar with Lean management tools and obtain a better understanding of their use.
  5. Deal with current issues concerning healthcare organizations such as quality management and patient flow logistics.

Carman KL, Paez K, Stephens J, et al. Improving Care Delivery Through Lean: Implementation Case Studies. Prepared under contract HHSA290200600019. AHRQ Publication No. 13(15)-0056. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; November 2014. [view report here]