But take a look anyway, if you have an interest in process improvement in hospitals. This is a collection of my best posts on this topic.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A solution to clutter

#GBMP1 Sometimes unexpected proposed countermeasures to problems called out during Lean process improvement efforts come up.  Look at the one proposed here on a suggestion form!  While Lean envisions countermeasures as temporary or iterative or interim solutions to problems, I don't think even the most creative of Lean experts would have come up with this one--even for the short term.

Thanks to Gary Peterson at O. C. Tanner for this humorous example.

Notes from a Lean conference

#GBMP1 I'm currently attending the 9th Annual Northeast Shingo Prize Conference presented by GBMP, a non-profit that is engaged in Lean educational programs.  Entitled, "True North: Set the Course, Make Waves," the conference began with a short introduction by GBMP's president, Bruce Hamilton.  Regular readers will recognize Bruce as the star of Toast Kaizen, a wonderful video illustrating Lean principles in the "production" of toast in a kitchen.  He began with the concept of "True North," which he defined as "the way things should be," but importantly the way things should be for both customers and those providing service to customer.

The keynote speaker was Gary Peterson, EVP for supply chain and production at The O.C. Tanner Company.  "We've made a ton of mistakes" with our Lean journey, he began:

Most of the mistakes we've made centered on our people.  We implemented tools and imposed them on our people.  They worked, but people hated it. We hired "a cop" to enforce use of the tools.  "That should have made it obvious that we were doing something wrong!"

The fundamental principle has to be respect for people, he noted.  He suggested that there are four things that are critical for getting people involved:

(1) Setting a clear vision:  Establishing an understanding of True North (an aspirational vision of what might be achieved--but paradoxically might be unlikely ever to be achieved), provide free flowing information, engage in true transparency.  "By the way," he noted, "Things somehow move from aspirational to the way things are!"

(2) Providing a powerful reason for engagement.  Don't use, "If we don't do this we may go out of business."  Focus on the purpose of the organization, the intrinsic reasons that make daily work meaningful and create a sense of pride.  (By the way, check out his company's blog to get a sense of this.)

(3) Engaging in a thoughtful and good improvement methodology.  Develop people for contribution, particularly helping people evolve into leadership roles that are supportive of the philosophy.  "We want eveyone to become leaders." Minimize rules that control: Avoid systems that get in the way. "Don't act like you are cutting them loose and then have them drag a chain behind themselves." Hire well: Ensure that they believe in the elements of a living culture--safety, continuous improvement, trust, respect for others, we are all in this together, Arbinger principles (avoiding self-deception.)

(4) Inspiring a desire to continue to do it and stay engaged.  Make it fun to learn and safe to venture into unknown territory.  Above all, "Show me you value my efforts."  Help people believe: "There is no secret ingredient."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to keep Lean while eating

One of the dangers of becoming a Lean aficionado is that you see opportunities for process improvement everywhere.  Also, you feel an affinity for people who are able to go to gemba (the place where work is done) and, either by training or by intuition, look at work flows and find ways to improve them.  You have sympathy for them when their supervisors are unable to recognize their helpful suggestions or respond approrpriately.

I was giving a talk at a conference in Connecticut today and walked up to the lunch buffet table when I heard one of the servers say to her supervisor, "Shouldn't we move the chocolate cake closer to the coffee? Then, the potato chips can be closer to the sandwiches, too."

Of course, she was right.  Look above.  The flow of customers gathering their main course is from right to left, using a large plate (not seen here) for their sandwiches, using the condiments, and adding a bag of chips to their plate.  The flow of customers getting desert would be from the far end of the table, moving left to right, getting their coffee or tea and picking up some cake using the small plates. As the table is organized, when the two flows get busy, they would interfere with each other.

Her supervisor said, "No, the cake has to be near the B&Bs [the bread and butter plates], so we can't move it."

Well, as you can see, it would be possible to switch the chips and the cake and reconfigure things slightly to still allow the B&Bs to be near the cake.

Sure enough, as lunch proceeded, traffic jams ensued between the people who were picking up their main courses and the ones who had already progressed to coffee and dessert.

I offer this not as a treatise in the proper placement of luncheon foods on a buffet line.  I offer it more as an example of a manager who quickly dismissed a suggestion from a staff member without engaging in a reasoned discussion of the alternatives.  We see this all the time in hospitals and other organizations, where a manager becomes blindly wedded to "the way we've always done it," and in so doing discourages front-line staff from offering suggestions for process improvement.