The main aim of this paper was two-fold: first, to design a participative methodology that facilitates lean management implementation in healthcare by adopting the action research approach; second, to illustrate the usefulness of this methodology by applying it to the sleep unit of a public hospital in Spain. This methodology proposes the implementation of lean management in its broadest sense: adopting both lean principles and some of its practical tools or practices in order to achieve competitive advantage. The complete service value chain was considered when introducing changes through lean management implementation. This implementation involved training and involving staff in the project (personnel pillar), detecting and analysing "waste" in value chain processes (processes pillar) and establishing control and measurement mechanisms in line with objectives (key performance indicators pillar) and putting in place improvement actions to achieve these objectives. The application of this methodology brought about an improvement in the management of patient flow in terms of effectiveness, efficiency and quality but also an internal transformation towards lean culture.
Keywords: employee participation; lean healthcare; lean management.