Lean classics worth a second look

I am a lean leader and always willing to share my learnings. I’ve written several blog posts chronicling my lean experience at different organizations. Some of them have been quite popular with readers. I’ll call them my canstockphoto19155139“lean classics”. Here’s a recap for your reference:

Huddles and Visual Management:

Leadership huddles: not just another meeting – describes my first IT leadership huddle launch back at University of Michigan Health System. As my lean coach said at the time, be willing to experiment, it doesn’t have to be perfect. We learned and tweaked it as we went through the PDCA cycle.

Making the invisible visible – describes the beginning stages of the visual board our IT leadership team created at University Hospitals in Cleveland.

Making the invisible visible – part 2 – describes that same effort several months after we launched it and how we used it as a team.

6 tips for successful huddle boards – based on experience, my advice to those considering their own huddle boards. Remember, you need to be willing to experiment.

Gemba Walks:

Importance of rounding or going to the “gemba” – describes early experience with clinical and operational rounding both at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and University of Michigan Health System. Continue reading

6 tips for successful huddle boards

I recently had an opportunity to advise an IT department on their overall lean initiative. While no two organizations have the same lean journey, there are common challenges. Visual management and huddlecanstockphoto19155139 boards are components of a lean management system. Here are some of the common challenges you can expect to encounter and tips for success:

“Perfect is the enemy of good” – You must be willing to experiment and get messy. Visual boards take many shapes and forms. Do they help you focus on the right work and metrics as a team?  It’s less important that they look pretty to the outside observer.

Standard framework with room for variation – Even if there is a standard for what all huddle boards in your organization should look like and include, there must still be room for variation by unit or team. What’s important to one team may not be important to another. If you’re ready to get started and wonder if there will be an organization standard at some point, don’t wait for it. Just get going and adapt later if a standard appears. Continue reading

Making the invisible visible

The whiteboard in my office has become a working draft for our IT leadership visual management board. And it’s become a focal point of discussion as I socialize the idea with our IT VPs, directors and canstockphoto26356044managers. I’m encouraged that everyone who gets the walkthrough supports the idea and sees the value in it. They see the potential it has to address some fundamental problems in how we work as a department.

Ownership of the board is shifting to the team. I’m using color coded sticky notes to add ideas and pose questions. I’ve encouraged IT leaders to stop by and put their own sticky notes up as we develop it together.

Some have asked if they should do something similar with their own team. The answer is yes! We need to commit at the leadership level and model behaviors. But to truly be effective, each team should have some kind of visual management and huddle that rolls up to the leadership huddle. Continue reading

Lessons from an aspiring lean leader

This week I will be sharing lessons I’ve learned as a lean leader and champion – in particular around visual management. The Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) holds an annual Lean Transformation Summit canstockphoto16267629where experts and practitioners come together from all industries to learn from one another.

My talk will cover a multi-year journey that has involved learning from others both in and out of healthcare, site visits, training classes, lots of reading, and experiments with my leadership team. Most of my talk is based on my experience and lessons learned at the University of Michigan Health System.

I was delighted to see that University Hospitals where I’m currently the interim CIO has been on their own lean journey since 2011. At our hospitals you will see huddles and visual boards throughout. Thousands of staff have been trained in lean concepts and methods. In contrast, there have been limited experiments with lean at the corporate office. I have a few allies in my IT leadership team who have experience with lean in other organizations. A good start!

I would have been making a mistake to arrive at UH as the interim CIO and start introducing lean methods week one. I needed to see and hear the problems that need to be addressed. Continue reading

October is Quality Month!

Each year UMHS celebrates Quality Month and this year is no exception. Last week as part of our Lean Thinker’s Series, Dr. Richard Shannon, EVP Health Affairs, University of Virginia Health System, gave an excellent talk titled “Patient Safety and Quality: The New Currency in Academic Health Centers”.

It was good to hear how another academic medical center is approaching similar challenges and applying lean. Some of my takeaways from his talk and the lunch discussion that followed:

  • Dr. Shannon described their Be Safe initiative – “Our Be Safe initiative is advancing our status as a high performing organization by systematically applying the scientific method (Lean Principles) to improve the safety of our patients and workforce through real time problem solving.” He shared examples of how they have reduced the incidence of hospital acquired infections, a problem for all hospitals.
  • Senior executives hold a “situation room” and digital report out each morning. They spend 15 minutes reviewing critical problems that have been reported and then spend the next 45 minutes actually going to the units to understand the specific problems more deeply. And they do it on Saturdays as well.
  • Their IT team plays a central role in providing data and reporting in support of their daily management system. They have developed the “Be Safe” reporting system. It is a common platform that supports daily manual entry from any employee and takes automated updates from other feeder systems. He emphasized the importance of having actionable data. All of their A3s are done online and uploaded to a library that can be queried. Patient safety events are documented with an online form as part of the system. I plan to reach out to their CIO, Rick Skinner, who has shared some of their lean stories with me in the past. Having heard Dr. Shannon’s talk, it’s time to get a much better understanding of their system.

Continue reading

Go to the gemba, seek to learn

I’ve written about gemba walks. Gemba is the Japanese word for “the real place” or that place where the work is done.

I am fond of a quote from President Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you are 1,000 miles from the corn field.” Gemba basicsWhile I don’t know the specific context for the quote, it applies to business today. As leaders, unless we see the way work happens on the front line, we cannot understand the problems we need to solve and the barriers we need to remove. That doesn’t happen by just meeting in a conference room.

All hospital leaders were assigned to do at least three gemba walks this summer. The walks are supposed to be an example of each of the following:

  • patient and family experience such as observing check-in
  • front line staff experience such as shadowing someone or attending a unit’s daily huddle
  • “break out of your silo” experience such as observing one of your downstream customers or walking a “value stream” (a high level view of how work gets accomplished across multiple departments and physical locations)

We are expected to Continue reading

So what’s the problem – A3 thinking

If you don’t know what an “A3” is, don’t worry. When I started at University of Michigan Health System, I didn’t either.  When I first saw an A3 meeting on my calendar, I asked “What group is that?”

Plan, do, check, act. PDCA on white isolated background. 3d

There were so many groups with different acronyms!  Turned out it was a meeting with a few colleagues to update our status report on major UMHS IT initiatives. We were using an A3 format for our report.

So what is an A3? It is a tool used as part of Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA).  The A3 name actually comes from the paper size (11 x 17 sheet) that tells a story laid out from the upper left-hand side to the lower right.

Telling the story of a problem on an A3 includes looking at the background (why and what), describing its current condition (where things stand), and doing a root cause analysis. And then, establishing goals and targets, proposing countermeasures, making an action plan and determining success metrics.   Continue reading

Leadership huddles: not just another meeting

It’s huddle time! No, I’m not joining a sports team.  But along with my leadership team, we are taking the next step on our lean journey. In a few weeks we’ll be starting twice a week 30 minute leadership huddles. This is part of Lean in Daily Work which also includes key visual metrics, visual boards, Everyday Lean Ideas (ELI), and leadership walks.

In a post last summer, I talked about the lean journey.  It is important for leadership to set common expectations throughout an organization.  So if we’re going to practice lean thinking as a department, our leadership team has to set the example.

The goals of this lean experiment include the following:

  • Create a common understanding of what our performance is compared to what we want it to be so that we can understand the gaps and improve
  • Make our work visual and actionable
  • Understand our business more deeply by asking questions and looking at trends
  • Surface, track and trend problems
  • Gain experience and practice with lean

Continue reading

Importance of rounding or going to the “gemba”

In lean speak, you have to go to the “gemba”, that place where the work is done. GembaTo go to the “gemba,” I rounded with some of my colleagues in the early days of our inpatient Epic go live. They included our Chief Medical Informatics Officer (CMIO), the executive director of our children and womens hospital, and our Chief Nursing Officer (CNO).  We visited many different inpatient units – to listen to staff tell us how it was going and describe issues. It reminded me that I need to once again make time to regularly round with our users. Continue reading

On the lean journey

I recently heard Amir Dan Rubin, president and CEO of Stanford Hospital & Clinics, describe the three plus year lean journey of his organization. While those in the audience were impressed and even BilliPullQuotesalivating over what they have accomplished, Amir was the first to say they have much more to do. A true journey it is. Even leaders from some of the organizations we want to emulate say they have many miles ahead on the lean journey.

What is lean? According to the Lean Enterprise Institute, “the core idea is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Simply, lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.”

Amir Rubin and John Shook, the CEO of the Lean Enterprise Institute – both national thought leaders in lean thinking – were the keynote speakers during the Healthcare Value Network (HCVN) site visit that the University of Michigan Health System hosted last month.

The network is a learning collaborative of health care organizations committed to lean transformation. UMHS is a founding member of the network. Attendees at this session included leaders from Stanford Health and Stanford’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Lehigh Valley, Cleveland Clinic, the BJC System, UMass and NY Health and Hospitals Corporation.

Our Michigan Quality System (MQS) actively participates in the network and organized the 2 ½  day site visit. MQS combines the strength and success of our longstanding commitment to scientific problem solving with tools and a unified philosophy to provide a robust approach to quality improvement. MQS adapts lean thinking as a consistent approach to quality and process improvement.

Led by Dr. Jack Billi, MQS has been helping UMHS make steady progress on our own lean journey for 8 years. Jack says he wants to develop 25,000 problem solvers – every UMHS employee. Our lean journey is evident throughout UMHS:

“Managing to Learn” courses focus on teaching A3 thinking by tackling a real problem with support of a mentor

  • People work with a lean coach
  • People develop a value stream for a functional area
  • Groups implement daily huddles and visual boards

MQS staff and others showcased some of our more advanced areas of lean work at UMHS during this site visit.

Colleagues from other network member organizations also had the opportunity to visit a few outstanding companies in the Ann Arbor area to learn from them:

  • Con-way Freight is a trucking company that is an exemplar in using their Visual Strategy room to manage their business
  • Menlo Innovations is a software development company that has intentionally chosen to found its culture on the Business Value of JoyTM 
  • Last, but not least, Zingerman’s is known for its fabulous deli food and its unique culture – they offer training programs to other companies

Managing to Learn was one of the first training programs I attended at UMHS. I took on a project that turned out to be too big for a first A3 but, with the CEO as my mentor, I learned. Many of my management team and staff have attended lean training. We use standard forms for projects and capital requests that follow the A3 format – background, current state, problem, analysis, goals, and countermeasures. We still have room for improvement in true A3 thinking and problem solving. We track various metrics but don’t have a visual room or board where we regularly post such information to review it as a group.

HCVN group Gemba visit to University Hospital OR huddle board.  What went wrong today?

HCVN group Gemba visit to University Hospital OR huddle board. What went wrong today?

Gemba is a Japanese word which means “actual place”. In the process improvement context, “going to the gemba” means observing the process in action. Going to the “gemba” in my department is difficult; the majority of staff work in cubicles on computers. What exactly is the team’s process to observe and understand on a “gemba” walk?

I’ve been honest about the challenges in my own department, and I’m committed to applying lean methodology to our work. I look forward to the upcoming Lean Management On the Job Development (OJD) Program for senior leaders. One lesson I learned from Amir’s talk is this: senior leadership setting common expectations throughout the organization is critical to success. As we continue to roll out lean in IT, I expect everyone to participate.  It needs to be embedded in everything we do. Lean will become the way we work.

Stay tuned for what I hope to be some of our own lean success stories.

 

See the Michigan Quality System website to learn about our health system’s lean journey: http://www.med.umich.edu/mqs/

See the UMHS Quality Improvement website for more information on UMHS efforts: http://www.med.umich.edu/i/quality/index.html

See the Virtual Lean Resource Center to learn more about lean: www.med.umich.edu/i/quality/tools/lean_assist.html