Going to the Summit

At Catalysis, one of our guiding principles for our annual Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit is that each attendee has a “Wow” experience. Here is how one Summit attendee, Bryce Johnson, an Operational Innovation Specialist from Nebraska Methodist Health System, described his time at the Summit.

I was fortunate enough to attend the 2022 Catalysis Summit in Salt Lake City, Utah in early June. This was my first in-person Catalysis conference. Below are my thoughts and feelings from the conference, along with entirely too much discussion about the food.  

LEAN Healthcare Research Symposium

I arrived a day early to the conference so I could attend the LEAN Healthcare Research Symposium. The first person I got to hear from was Dr. Karen Feinstein, who is leading the charge to create a National Patient Safety Board, based off the National Transportation Safety Board. Having spent the previous decade as an Air Force pilot I was happy to hear lessons healthcare could learn from aviation. One of which is the concept of how sound is treated on an airplane’s flight deck. In aviation if something makes a noise there is a purpose behind that sound and the crew knows they have to respond in some manner. Dr. Feinstein advocates to bring that concept to healthcare in the form of the “silent hospital,” where audible sounds have a purpose and require a response. This is a shift from the incessant beeping from medical equipment that nurses and staff have learned to tune out over the years.

I also had the first of many in person introductions to people who I have seen through Zoom screens and listened to on Catalysis podcasts. Jean Lakin is my organization’s Catalysis Healthcare Value Network director, and after biweekly Zoom meetings for the past year it was great to see her in person and not to have to ask if she could see my screen. After hearing additional presentations, the evening social began. I forgot what a room full of people excitingly catching up after not seeing each other sounded like. At the social that night Jean introduced me to Mark Graban, who’s Lean Hospital was the first book I read when I made my transition from the military to healthcare. I was excited to talk to one of my lean healthcare heroes, even for a few minutes.

One of the nice things about the in-person event was the serendipitous interactions that occur around the (many) food breaks. One of those interactions was when I met another Air National Guard officer who also works in healthcare, Rick Pippin. We spent time discussing both our similar Air Force experiences and how we tried to leverage our lean expertise to improve our military units. After consuming two hand fired crème brulees it was time to rest up for the first full day of the conference.

Day One

Day one’s opening keynote involved a special moment for me. My supervisor and coworker had nominated me for the first annual Nate Hurle Scholarship, and I was named as the winner at the event. Hearing Nate’s story and impact he had on the lean healthcare community was awe inspiring and gave me something to strive towards as I continue my lean journey. After the first speaker I stayed in the main ballroom and watched Martin’s Point Health Care’s presentation about creating capacity. My take away from that discussion is how much a simple change, like shortening a phone greeting, can save over 300 hours a year. It was a helpful reminder that lean doesn’t just mean swim lanes and post it notes, sometimes it just means trying small tweaks to see if they help.

At lunch there were breakout discussions to reflect on and discuss topics from the morning. I selected the table whose topic was High Reliability Organizations. Sitting with other lean thinkers struggling with implementing the same things in their organizations that I am showed me the value of the Catalysis Healthcare Value Network. Everybody was friendly, engaged, and kind.

The final panel of day one was a roundtable with John Toussaint, John Shook, and Dr. Yerian from the Cleveland Clinic. Seeing three giants in lean healthcare use humble inquiry on each other as they pulled together ideas and batted around concepts was a master class on what lean thinking looks like.   

I took a number of pictures at the conference, though 60% of them were of the dessert tables. The incredible food fueled me through day two.

Day Two

Day two started with the interview with Marc Harrison, the CEO of Intermountain Health. His views on CI and how executives can lead (or sabotage) organization change were refreshing. He forcefully stated that if a leader wasn’t going to support the CI culture they didn’t belong at Intermountain, which is unusual to see from the CEO level.

For the first breakout session I had the honor of watching my incredible coworker Julie Williams present her learning session titled “Learning from a Model Cell Experiment,” which was all about standing up and implementing model cells. I was grateful to be in the room as she helped teach other lean healthcare leaders about the potential pitfalls and advantages of standing up a model cell. Having our former Catalysis Healthcare Value Network director, Paul Pejsa, introduce her was another delight.

The rest of the afternoon was a blur; listening to additional speakers, lively discussions during the various breaks, and the final keynote speech from Kim Barnas. Trying to wrap up such a wide ranging event is hard but Kim struck an inspirational tone.

After the final keynote, Julie and I ventured outside of the Grand America hotel campus for the first time. A brisk walk and a dinner on Whiskey Street is exactly what we needed to process what we learned and start developing an action plan for what we wanted to do once we got back to Omaha. After Julie left for the airport I spent my Thursday night sitting by the Grand America pool reading and enjoying the sounds of summer. Having such a nice location to recover and reflect in was a key part of the entire conference experience for me.

Going to the Gemba

Friday involved one final meal at the hotel (I was a fan of the blintzes) and a trip to Intermountain’s Layton campus. In a few short hours we were able to observe their tiered huddle system, internal CI software, and see a few of their huddle boards. Talking to the staff and seeing how continuous improvement has positively impacted their staff from EVS to radiology was an inspiring finish to a powerful week.


As John Shook said during his keynote panel on day one, “surprises expose our assumptions.” I wouldn’t say I was surprised by anything at the Summit, as I knew I would be learning from world renowned experts. I was delighted though to meet so many other lean practitioners from across the country who were willing to trade ideas, talk about solutions, and even mistakes they have made while implementing lean in their health system. I didn’t realize how much I had missed the face to face interaction that you can have at an in person conference while nerding out with others in the field. I am looking forward to next year’s Summit and the knowledge that it will bring.

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