12 April 2016

The Drive for Process Improvement Part 4: Effectively Celebrating Progress

Three leaders from the International Consortium for Health Outcomes Measurement (ICHOM) – a nonprofit founded by organizations known for progressive business practices and rigorous research: Harvard Business School, The Boston Consulting Group and the Karolinska Institutet – published an article in Harvard Business Review that analyzes the success some healthcare organizations have had in implementing patient outcomes measurement programs. The article lists five steps that should be applied when implementing major change or process improvement within healthcare systems. This blog post is the fourth in a series of five that critique and nuance each ICHOM step from a Kaizen perspective.

Daily Progress

The fourth imperative outlined by the ICHOM is to set goals and milestones to recognize and celebrate incremental progress. Here we will discuss how to recognize small steps in process improvement and how to celebrate the end outcome. While it is indeed important to publicize the end outcome of process improvements, it is equally as important to encourage consistently attentive thinking to fuel ongoing innovation.

Process improvement is, in and of itself, a process driving consistently toward innovation to maximize efficiency and reduce waste. At Sheridan, our Kaizen events solicit input extensively from a cross-functional team dedicated to improvement in order to gain insight and develop solutions to the inefficiencies in organizational processes. Daily recognition of progress makes the drivers of process improvement and organizational administration mutually accountable. Thus, during a Kaizen, the team leader will present a 15 minute daily report out to the organization’s senior leaders in order to vet the ideas the team developed that day. The leader is additionally encouraged to include the names of everyone on the team to provide recognition for their roles in shaping the Kaizen’s discourse. These reports allow senior leaders to question ideas and guide progress, but also provide an opportunity for small-scale recognition of team members for their daily progress. By holding these feedback sessions daily we prevent the team from veering off course and ensure their valuable time is well spent. These small details go a long way in constructing a supportive culture that welcomes bold, innovative thinking and expression.

Concluding the Kaizen

Each Kaizen concludes with a series of final presentations, open to the organization’s staff, to share the progress that has been made and the changes that are being implemented. Each member of the team has an opportunity to laud the group and communicate lessons to senior leaders and peers. While some members of the team experience anxiety before the presentation, we ensure a celebratory atmosphere by providing constant support and enthusiasm that we hope will leave the team and the broader organization with a zeal for process improvement and innovation that can be carried far into the future.

While many final presentations consist of remarks from each member of the team, many are fun and creative. Some teams perform a skit to communicate the decisions that were made and the approaches taken. Ultimately, these presentations provide the team with broad organizational recognition and an understanding of the value that each member brought to the table during the collaboration. We also like to take photos of these events to post on the company website, newsletter or SharePoint to further publicize the team’s efforts and what they learned. The sense of achievement, purpose and mutual appreciation is tremendously apparent during these celebrations.

Beyond the Kaizen

While the Kaizen is a moment in time, its philosophy of tireless, collaborative effort for ongoing progress persists beyond the event’s conclusion. For this reason, we cultivate programs that encourage ongoing attention to detail and widespread adoption of new protocol.

For about three weeks following the Kaizen, we assign someone to engage in “softball coaching” dedicated to catching and rewarding people who do the process correctly. The coach is always an expert with total understanding of what the process should look like. The rewards for following new protocol come in the form of soft gratification, like praise or acknowledgment.

At Sheridan, we additionally have implemented a lanyard program (comparable to belts in karate) that displays understanding of the practice and philosophy of process improvement. There are four distinct notches on the lanyard that progressively increase in difficulty to achieve. The first notch is earned by expressing introductory knowledge on how a Kaizen is conducted. The second notch is achieved by demonstrating competency in executing a Kaizen. While the first two notches focus on the practice of Kaizen, the third notch is earned through internalizing a broad understanding of its philosophy. The fourth notch is earned when one effectively transforms an organization’s facilities for the purpose of process improvement. The lanyards are tangible rewards for commitment to ongoing improvement.

A Kaizen is not a lone guarantee of ongoing success or prosperity, rather it is a method that creates enthusiasm and the necessary momentum to make organizational progress. The essence of Kaizen is the collaboration of people for a greater goal, therefore it is important to encourage people to buy into a cooperative system where they are able to proactively work to improve processes. In this sense, they are constantly reminded of their own role and value when promoting quality patient care.

Previous Series Installments:

Part 1: Making Champions of Believers

Part 2: Assembling Your Dream Team

Part 3: Commit to Your Vision