30 September 2019

Denise Bennett

Denise Bennett

Management & Improvement Systems Coach, Lean Enterprise Australia
Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Management & Improvement Systems Coach, Denise Bennett, has taken her Lean expertise all over the world. From California to Singapore and back to Adelaide and Melbourne, Denise has followed her love of engaging with people and helping them learn and grow – and her desire to get amongst the action – into a successful career in supporting leaders in service industries transform their organisations.

After spending many years as a Nephrology nurse leader in Tasmania, Denise was offered an opportunity in 1998 to lead the development of a new private dialysis service in Adelaide. During her time here, she needed to learn more about business management, and so commenced her MBA studies at the University of South Australia.

This period signified a major turning point in Denise’s career and where she learnt the building blocks of Lean Thinking and Practice that put her life on an exciting trajectory.

As she soon learned, Lean Thinking and Practice – particularly in recent years – has been a proven methodology of effective business management. A tool that helps align leaders and engages staff to work on the right things, making improvements everyday as part of the vital work that achieves organisational goals.

And in healthcare this sometimes means the difference between life and death.

“No other sector needs Lean Thinking and Practice more than healthcare. Our patients deserve it,” Denise explains.

“Lean is in essence a management system that provides guidance on how to work every day to deliver more value and less waste to customers. Most importantly, it’s about developing people to solve problems and solving problems to develop people – the two go together.

“In service, this often means reducing the amount of work that gets re-done because it doesn’t happen the right way the first time. So as well as being better for clients or patients, it is better for staff and the organisation.”

After juggling her MBA, plus the pregnancy and birth of her son Fin, Denise impressively landed a role straight out of university with the Flinders Medical Centre where she transformed its processes and the way the organisation worked.

Denise presenting in UniSA Business' MBA program

In fact, Flinders Medical Centre was one of the first healthcare services in the world to use this Lean approach and as a result its work became internationally recognised.

The innovative path Denise trail-blazed in South Australia allowed her begin privately consulting, and eventually attracted the attention of Dr Kathy Alexander, the CEO of City of Melbourne in 2010.

This commenced a period of tremendous growth for Denise both personally and professionally.

“I had the opportunity to work closely with the CEO and the executive team at the City of Melbourne to bringtogether corporate planning and people development with process improvement and realise the benefits of aligning these efforts,” she says.

“The approach had not been tried in local government before in Australia and there was no documented international experience.”

Fresh off the confidence of her successful stint at the City of Melbourne, and the revolutionary work she had a part in there, 2015 saw Denise take a leap of faith and moved her family across the Pacific Ocean to Palo Alto, California, taking a position as Lean Coach at Stanford Children’s Hospital, where many of the country’s sickest children’s come for expert, life-saving care.

“In this highly technological, complex university hospital, we had a lot of problems every day and we used the Lean Management system to help us solve them, with a structured system that allowed problems to flow up to the CEO and executive team daily by 10.00am.

“But the system ensures that problem solving occurs at the right level and staff or frontline leaders are supported and coached to solve problems when possible.”

The reason Denise became a nurse was her mum, Thelma. Denise describes her as an incredible person and fondly remembers her tenacity and compassion raising three girls on her own, always wanting to learn and improve, even in the final years of her career as a Director of Nursing.

Denise has followed in her mother’s footsteps, always striving to develop and learn from the world and professional environment around her, all with an innate desire to improve their lives and make their day run just a little smoother.

After all, the Lean methodology is all about developing people to solve problems and solving problems to develop people.

“I love developing people so that they can spread their knowledge and practices to other departments or organisations,” she says.

“My ultimate reward is when a team member comes to me and tells me that they have been selected for a new position.

“I also love watching and observing the work. You learn so much by taking the time to understand. I hate solving problems from a meeting room or an office – I love to go where the work takes place and learn deeply from the people who do the work.”

Today, Denise continues her work as a Coach for Transformation and Improvement and also works with UniSA as a course facilitator within our Executive Education programs.

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