‘Process Improvement’ Category


Process Improvement: Having the Right Tools

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Have you ever heard anyone describe themselves as a creature of habit? I have! If I am being honest, that statement might have been made for me. As a matter of fact, most of us are guilty of being such a creature from time to time. Even if you’ve successfully avoided that rut, I can assure that you work with people who haven’t. Don’t believe me…I’ll prove it to you. Have you ever tried to change a process at work? Has anyone ever told you that the new way “isn’t how they do it around there” or some variation of that? If so, you have creatures of habit within your circle of influence.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

I am not trying to convince you that all habits are bad. Of course they aren’t. However, all opportunities aren’t the same either. Knowing this, we must seek to equip ourselves with the right problem solving tools for the job. Our habits will naturally draw us towards using tools that we are familiar with and that have helped us achieve success in the past. These tools should be considered in evaluating an opportunity, but we must be certain that we have the right tool for the job. I’m particularly fond of the expression “you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole.” I think it applies to this discussion quite nicely.

How can you do it? 

  1. Seek advice from other leaders. Consult with your colleagues when faced with an opportunity that you aren’t sure how to solve. Leveraging your collective experience for the good of the organization will help produce the best results.
  2. Seek advice from your professional organization. I am a member of the American Society for Healthcare Engineering. We have multiple resources, including a listserv and publications, that allow people in my field to share opportunities and solutions. I am sure that most of you have such resources as well. I would encourage you not to underestimate how helpful they might be.
  3. Put tools in your tool belt. Over the next few weeks, I am going to focus on some of the most basic process improvement tools. It is my hope that by introducing you to some simple tools, you will be better prepared to handle opportunities as they arise.

 

What are some of your favorite tools to use for process improvement?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Process Improvement: Taking The First Step

Justin Clark, MBA

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

If you start to think about the idea of process improvement and you accept that it needs to be addressed as a service issue, you will likely be confronted with one of two realities very quickly. You will either see so many opportunities that you will have to wrestle with becoming overwhelmed at the thought of taking that first step. The alternative is that you may have an already high-achieving team and might believe that finding that first step will be hard because the gaps just aren’t that obvious. Either way, I would like to challenge you that failure in this case is best achieved by doing nothing.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

No matter the sector or market that you’re working in, you are competing for customers. In healthcare, people have more choices today than they did yesterday and they will likely have more choices tomorrow than they do today. In order to continue to strive for success, you must ask yourself the hard questions about your areas of responsibility. As I said last week, these are value based questions regarding the cost, quality, and convenience of the service your team provides for the customer. One way to help jumpstart your discussion is to do what is called a SWOT analysis.

How can you do it? 

  1. What is a SWOT analysis? No – it doesn’t mean you kick the door down on your department and see what’s inside (That’s a SWAT team). This SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
  2. How do you do it? Gather key members of your team. Choose people from all levels of the team to make sure that you have a fair and accurate representation of perspectives. From there, you all can discuss the four categories and how they apply to your team. If you want to learn more, check out this website.
  3. Take the first step. As a team, you can best decide which weaknesses need addressed first based on what opportunities and threats there are. It is that easy. Be decisive. Make a plan. Take action.

What are some additional strategies you have used to get the ball rolling on process improvement?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Process Improvement: It’s Really A Service Issue

Justin Clark, MBA

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Most people associate the phrase “process improvement” with the regular charge to reduce costs without sacrificing too much quality. It seems to be synonymous with things like budget review and fiscal year. I am here to challenge you to think about process improvement in an entirely different light. I want you to consider that process improvement might first be a customer service related endeavor. This may be unconventional and you might even disagree, but I hope that at the very least I will be successful in persuading you to see how the customer is intricately woven into any process improvement opportunity.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

All customers have three basic criteria by which the judge almost any service. You do. I do. We all do. In some circumstances we may value these three equally and in others we may choose to weight them according to our perceptions of our needs. The three questions we ask every time we have a customer service experience are as follows:

Was it good?
Was it fast?
Was it cheap?

In other words, we consider quality, convenience, and cost. What if we evaluated our areas of responsibility and asked if we could enhance our customer’s experiences by improving one of these factors? Wouldn’t we better position ourselves to capture their business?  Of course, we are bound by various resources constraints like cost and time. Regardless, broadening your understanding of process improvement to include this line of thinking will help you find opportunities that should help grow your business and bottom line.

How can you do it? 

  1. Think like a customer. Take your employee glasses off and see what your customers see. Some people can do this by intentionally evaluating their areas of responsibility. Others use resources such as feedback surveys, focus groups, and mystery shoppers.
  2. Know what your competition is doing. What choices does your customer have? Why should they choose you? Where do you have work to do to catch up? If you can’t answer these questions then you need to do some research. While it is important to know your processes inside and out, you have to be aware of what your competition is doing.
  3. Do something. Once you understand your customers experience and what options they have, craft a strategy that will help retain your current customers as well as attract new ones. Often this means taking calculated chances to improve your processes. The temptation is to assume that because it appears to be working that your process cant be improved. In the pursuit of perfection, there is almost always room for improvement.

What are some additional strategies you have used to shift the focus of performance improvement away from a budgetary conversation and into a service discussion?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Process Improvement: Recognizing Its Importance

Justin Clark, MBA

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

When you hear the words process improvement you might be tempted to think this is just “management speak” for do more with less or tighten the belt when it comes to spending. Everyone has experienced the discomfort of the annual belt tightening that never trims process fat, it just ultimately cuts to the point of causing significant operational pain.

It is also possible that you’re doing all you can to keep from drowning and the idea of building a better ship at the same time is closer to a dream than a reality. Or what if you have a process that is humming along? You or your team may be some of the highest performers.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Whether you relate to any of the three examples above or not, you must recognize that ongoing process improvement is a key to success in your business. Look at healthcare! It is a complex and dynamic market place. When aren’t things changing? Any organization that hopes to achieve and sustain success in this type of environment has to have process improvement as a part of their culture. The competitive marketplace rewards those who are constantly finding ways to deliver a better service, a faster service, and a cheaper service.

How can you do it? 

  1. Understand what Process Improvement is. Process Improvement is the proactive task of identifying, analyzing and improving upon existing business processes within an organization for optimization and to meet new quotas or standards of quality.
  2. Understand what Process Improvement is not. Process Improvement is not an annual budget strategy to reduce expenses, a process that has to be overly complicated (Six Sigma sounds scary, right?), or the responsibility of a singular department within an organization.
  3. Look around. Spend 15 minutes this week looking around at work. Look for opportunities to improve. What things can you do better, faster, cheaper? I’d be shocked if you don’t have a long list in even a short amount of time.
  4. Keep Going.  If you’re reading this, you’re already interested in leading a process improvement effort. You’re reading about leadership and that is almost certainly in an effort to improve your skills. You might not have thought of it this way, but your leadership technique is the process you’re currently focused on improving. There are a tremendous amount of resources available to continue to learn. I will explore some key elements of Process Improvement over the next three months. My examples will focus on Healthcare since that’s our field, but they will be fairly applicable across numerous disciplines. If you want to do research on your own, a quick Google search will result in hundreds upon hundreds of resources (refining the search for resources itself is a process in need of improving).

What are some additional strategies you have used to deliver direct and constructive feedback?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.