The Affordable Care Act has created angst among health care workers and administrators, not because big changes are coming, but because the impacts of those changes and their accompanying rules are not yet clear. For administrators, this level of uncertainty makes planning seem nearly impossible. Yet, healthcare organizations such as Mayo Clinic and Thedacare are currently developing robust plans for tomorrow, streamlining existing workflows, and delivering better outcomes in care—all while cutting costs, increasing cash flow, and growing the bottom line. How? Lean Six Sigma.
A Transformational Approach
Lean Six Sigma improves hospital operations with data-supported decision making. The goal is to drive continuous improvement throughout the organization, and in a way that aligns with the hospital’s strategic plan.
In health care, Lean Six Sigma focuses on both the process (workflow) and the service itself. When implemented properly, these practices train health care teams to react and adjust to changes efficiently, and even proactively create solutions to future problems. Typically, Lean Six Sigma projects yield between three and ten times the health care provider’s investment, as well as a 50% improvement in quality of care.
Financial Gains from Lean Six Sigma Result from:
n Eliminating rework, materials, and inventory
n Avoiding or reworking problematic processes
n Enhancing productivity and patient care quality
n Improving patient flow and cash flow
Lean Six Sigma methodologies make delivering and planning for high-quality care possible, even in the face of great change. Further, these practices prepare hospitals and staff for the coming changes while incorporating existing requirements from Medicare/Medicaid, ACO, avoidable adverse events, and much more.
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The September 30, 2011 edition of Manufacturing and Technology News magazine presented an article entitled, Lean and Six Sigma Are Not Leading To Breakthroughs In Corporate Performance. This article (the result of a survey of 100 business executives conducted by Alix Partners, a business consulting firm) highlighted some problems with Lean and Six Sigma implementations, including:
n 70% of respondents reported a less than 5% improvement in manufacturing costs as a result of Lean.
n 60% of respondents said their previous Lean improvements were not sustainable.
n Only 17% of respondents reported seeking long-term culture change in their organization.
Alix Partners made observations about the survey that are summarized here:
n Most companies are getting a poor return on their investment in Lean and Six Sigma.
n Companies are far too focused on implementing Lean tools and processes rather than on basic execution.
n Organizations need to dramatically rethink their Lean strategies by focusing on cash and finding the biggest opportunity to improve, and then deciding which Lean tool(s) will help them achieve that result.
n Company Leadership Teams must take responsibility for the Lean implementation, rather than trying to push this responsibility down to the Lean facilitator.
This data supported a report completed by Industry Week magazine in 2007 that reported the following Lean results from American business:
In the book, Leading Change, noted organizational change expert John Kotter notes that there are five prerequisites required to achieve any type of organizational change:
n Establishing a Sense of Urgency - Individuals or organizations do not change without a sense of urgency to do so.
n Creating the Guiding Coalition - Put together a group with enough power to lead and guide the organization through the change. This group should represent a cross-section of the organization.
n Developing a Vision and Strategy
n A vision is a broad description or picture of the future state of the organization. Create a vision to help direct the change effort (this is completed in Policy Deployment).
n Developing strategies for achieving that vision that include both marketing and operational activities (this is completed in Policy Deployment).
n Communicating the Change Vision
n Use every verbal and visual vehicle possible to constantly communicate the new vision and strategies (this is completed in Policy Deployment, Step 7 enabler projects).
n Empowering all associates (developed in Lean Culture)
n Get rid of obstacles that prevent associates from participating.
Change systems or structures that prevent associates from creating the change vision. Encourage risk taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions.
Experience has shown that adopting Lean requires, right from the beginning, a strong "sense of urgency" and commitment from the Leadership Team to the organizational change required to successfully implement Lean. This commitment to change must include the area where generally the greatest change must occur--the Leadership Team.
For more by Larry, see his blog.
DENVER (April 6, 2012) – WillowTree Advisors (WTA), a business and change management consulting firm, has been awarded a Colorado statewide Lean Six Sigma master services agreement for a series of projects to introduce and manage business-efficiency methodology to achieve improvement of business processes within Colorado State government.
The State of Colorado’s Lean Initiative is based on the fundamental idea that the State can develop a sustainable Lean culture. The purpose of this program is to generate a high level of acceptance for implementation of Lean business efficiency principles as well as identify opportunities to implement Lean principles, plan and host Lean events and identify waste and inefficiencies to create savings.
Governor Hickenlooper: “We understand that government is not a business. Still, we need to apply best practices from successful companies where they make sense. That is why we initiated the LEAN program in almost every state agency, where employee teams are now actively identifying waste and inefficiency to create savings.”
“I am extremely proud that WillowTree Advisors has been recognized as a provider of Lean Six Sigma services for the State of Colorado. WillowTree Advisors is headquartered in Denver and it makes us very proud to work for the state to help improve our government. ” said Kathryn Douglass, WillowTree Advisor managing partner. “We strongly support Governor Hickenlooper’s Lean initiative and are excited to help the agencies improve and enhance the services they provide to the public.”
Douglass launched WillowTree Advisors in 2009 and has 25 years of program management, executive leadership, technology and business operations experience. Her team’s value proposition rests on the delivery of big firm results on a cost effective and flexible platform.
WillowTree Advisors Provider of Business Transformation Services
Employing Lean and Six Sigma techniques, WillowTree offers a way to rapidly assess any back office operation (e.g. IT, HR, F&A, procurement, customer service and sales) and identify improvements that will make the organization more effective and efficient.
“If your organization is feeling sluggish, needs to get rid of redundant processes or has disengaged employees, it’s time to make a change,” said Kathryn Douglass, WillowTree Advisor managing partner. “All businesses need to take a look at their operations on a regular basis to determine if improvements need to be made, technologies need to be updated and organizations and delivery models reviewed and adjusted.”
The WillowTree Advisors team addresses business needs, eliminates waste and creates swift business value and change. They help organizations lead a successful transformation by linking refreshed activities to the business strategy, transforming approaches for customized environment, and developing an overall approach to managing change in the workplace.
“The application of Lean techniques to business processes can save time, reduce waste and eliminate costs – while improving customer and employee satisfaction,” said Douglass.
Closing the Loop in your Methodology
Whether adhering to the tenets of Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, Demand Flow Technology, or Theory of Constraints, improvement initiatives need to have a feedback mechanism. Academics tell us that there are four management functions: planning, organizing, leading and controlling. At the nexus of leading and controlling lies continuous improvement. To lead the organization to the next level of performance presumes that one understands current performance and has the tools – the levers to push – that will change the current process. Understanding and changing the process is control. To control a system is to manage it long term, and to accomplish this, feedback is necessary.