Engaging People in Healthcare with Kaizen

In next week’s podcast, I have authors Joe Swartz and Mark Graban discussing their new book, Healthcare Kaizen: Engaging Front-Line Staff in Sustainable Continuous Improvements. The book centers on healthcare, however, I believe many of the “lessons to be learned” can be applied to anyone in continuous improvement.

An excerpt from the podcast (Listen to the podcast, Engaging Front-Line Staff with Kaizen):

Joe:  You’re allowing Lean to grow organically. We talked about the different cultures that exist in a hospital. So how do you get engagement and consensus?

Healthcare KaizenMark:  People in healthcare really prize and value this idea of autonomy, “I get to do things my way,” especially, doctors and surgeons and, sometimes, nurses and other healthcare professionals. I think that just goes to show why the old, top-down change model doesn’t work in that environment. In fact, there was a doctor  who commented on my blog this week, who said, “There’s some sort of new protocol that was just forced out on everybody from on high, and not everybody agreed that this is the thing we should be doing with patients.”

The one thing he highlighted, he didn’t understand the problem. What problem is this addressing? It was a very low level of staff engagement and it certainly wasn’t Kaizen, it wasn’t anything Lean. Some senior medical or administrative leader will say, “OK. Well, we learned here’s some best practice from some other organization. Everyone needs to do it.”

Well, usually that doesn’t really translate to a lot of change. People nod their heads. “Uh?huh, uh?huh.” Then, they don’t do it.

This Kaizen model sometimes is very time?consuming. You’re building consensus. You’re trying to get people on the same page. It doesn’t mean that people magically agree, but when you go through the steps of making sure you’ve identified and communicated a problem and you’ve talked about the root cause and you’ve talked about, “Here’s this countermeasure and why we think it’s going to work.”

When you have that type of communication, as Joe mentioned and as we talk about in chapter eight of the book, you can do a lot to engage people and bring people on board, when you involve them in this type of improvement. A little bit of involvement goes a long way. A lot of times, people just get bent out of shape, “You never involve me. You never communicated.”

It’s understandable, why they balk or do not want to be involved. I think that’s where the things that we have in the book and in this Kaizen model, the softer side of Kaizen, if you will, I think there’s a lot to contribute to try to help people engage physicians and staff members in a better way.

About the authors:

Joseph Swartz is the Director of Business Transformation for Franciscan St. Francis Health of Indianapolis, IN. He has been leading continuous improvement efforts for 16 years and has lead more than 150 Lean and Six Sigma improvement projects. He is the co-author of Seeing David in the Stone: Finding and Seizing Great Opportunities.

Mark Graban is a consultant, author, keynote speaker, and blogger in the field of “Lean Healthcare.” In June 2011, Mark joined the software company KaiNexus as their “Chief Improvement Officer,” to help further their mission of “making improvement easier” in healthcare organizations, while continuing his other consulting and speaking activities.

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