‘Work Related’ Category


Process Improvement: The Fishbone Diagram

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

The fishbone is a form of cause and effect analysis. It is different than the 5 Why approach that we discussed last week. However, the objective is the same. It seeks to help us identify the cause of an undesirable outcome. As leaders, we may be tempted to settle for what appears to be the obvious answer. The fishbone diagram helps stimulate a dialogue that is more thorough and often helps drill down into a deeper under standing of the root cause.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

The fishbone is a tool for mildly complex problem solving that doesn’t require a lot of data analysis. It also allows for a team to discuss multiple potential root causes and document all of the information in one location so that is can be visually analyzed. This is a great tool to use at a leadership retreat or planning session where multiple ideas can be discussed in a medium to large sized group setting.

How can you do it? 

  1. Identify an opportunity. In order to arrive at answer, we must first have a clearly defined problem. Write out the problem or opportunity statement on a large board or flip chart.
  2. Makes the bones. The initial statement should be written to the far right and each possible cause should be written to the left. Each topic will make one bone of the fishbone diagram.
  3. Drill down.There may be sub-topics under a specific cause. Discuss them in detail until the idea has been exhausted. This should be documented with the corresponding bone on the diagram.
  4. Identify the cause (or causes). This process may lead to multiple root causes. Once you and your team feel that you’ve exhausted the potential causes, assess your information and decide which causes require action.

What are some examples of how you have used this process to stimulate a problem solving 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.