Long recognized by industry as a key component for advancement of business, process improvement is only now being incorporated into healthcare systems. Unfortunately, despite proven success in manufacturing, these same methods are often met with resistance when proposed to the healthcare sector, largely because leaders in the healthcare industry have always considered patient care more an art than a science. This attitude and the attendant value of autonomy are especially prevalent among physicians and nurses who provide direct clinical care to patients. Using specific examples, this paper outlines some of the key differences between manufacturing and healthcare operations, underscores the unique milieu of the healthcare industry, and proposes some solutions to successfully initiate process improvement for clinical operations without compromising individualized care for each patient. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.