By now you might have a couple of Kaizen or 5S events under your belt as part of your lean healthcare journey. Some teams might have established sustainable measures in their areas and Leadership is conducting gemba walks regularly. The 30-60-90 day follow-up and the lean momentum are progressing and visible. There is clear evidence that the objectives set by the team(s) are being met and the metrics are headed on the right track. Small teams are solving problems using A3 thinking. So what’s next? Continue with the lean improvements? Absolutely. Spread the lean healthcare methodology throughout the organization, most definitely. Lean is a never ending journey and your focus should always be the goal of zero waste. In all this good news there should be more good news. Could there be more? Yes, celebrate! Celebrating wins and successes are just as important as achieving a target. It’s a common step that I often see organizations leave out of the events and the entire transformation. I don’t believe it’s done intentionally, but rather that so much focus and energy is directed on meeting the objectives or that there is little belief that lean will work or that lean can really work in a well established organization.
In the first two years of my lean journey we seldom stopped to “smell the roses” so to speak and celebrate all the wins and successes we accomplished in each event. In fact, celebrating wins and recognizing team or members’ achievements was never in our yearly strategic lean plan or Hoshin pPanning. I came to believe that part of the reasoning was because we have tried so many different tools, education programs, and process improvement projects in the past, and were not sure if each event was going to be a success or even if lean was going to work in our work environment. It’s not that management did not want to recognize people or celebrate wins, we really did not know how or when, and by the time we got to it the teams the members had already moved on to another project or event. A common phrase that I often heard and later I picked up myself was “you’re doing a good job but!”, and like many others, I too only remember the BUT part. Leaving the team or members feeling that what was just accomplished was good but more is needed and not completely appreciated.
A few years ago, I revisited a team who I had coached and trained on Standardized Work and the 5S tool. The first thing that caught my eye was a 4 feet by 8 feet white board that the team placed in front of the department’s entrance that told the story of the department’s lean journey and where they were before the lean engagement, the current state, and what their ultimate future target was. At a glance, I could tell that the team had integrated visual control and standardized their daily work. A second board displayed leading metrics trends from inventory reduction to reducing lead time and the defects (waste) the team was working on. The supervisor proudly guided me to the 5S board which indicated that the 5S score had improved by more than 40%. The supervisor also shared with me that both the work environment and morale had improved. As I listened and observed all the creativity the team had come up with to eliminate waste and sustain progress, I turned to the supervisor and asked if the team, along with management, had stopped to celebrate all these successes. He looked at me and then paused before answering the question and, seconds later, he turned to the team apologizing to them. “You know, we really have not done that. Thanks have been said during events and follow-ups but not a celebration of recognition to the team and individuals who have gone beyond the call of duty.” I realized that I had unintentionally put the supervisor in a tough position but it allowed him, the team, and management to reflect on a wonderful story and transformation process the department had gone thru. At first, little attention was devoted to improving the department’s process issues, and the department stuck out like a sore thumb on the overall Value Stream Map. However, today it was a different story, not because of what I did, but because what the team had done, and what the team was doing to take ownership of their area. Before leaving the department, a time and date was decided by management and the team when and where the celebration would take place.
When celebrating wins and recognizing members, it’s more than just the delicious snacks, drinks, and the nice thank you speech. You are celebrating a new beginning, the collaboration of team work, the success of each individual on the team who at one time might have had doubts about lean and the will to change. By celebrating success, you are feeding the growth for change and cultivating a safe environment in which individuals would want to add more value to their daily work. My mentor once told me that very little is mentioned about celebrating wins because most teams and organizations really do not believe they can win and they certainly do not believe they can succeed after a failure.
As you continue in your lean healthcare journey it is important to celebrate and share success from kaizen and 5S events, and A3 problem-solving. Don’t forget to involve the people whose jobs have changed. They helped make the organization better, and deserve to share in the celebration. There will always be more waste to eliminate and in turn more celebrations. So stop and smell the roses every chance you and your team get.
This week’s blog was written by Alex Maldonado, an assoicate with HPP. Alex’s professional experience includes process improvement, operational, and leadership positions in the medical delivery systems and appliance manufacturing industries with Baxter Healthcare and Whirlpool. Alex has had a successful track record in improving results-driven processes with an emphasis in personnel training, project leadership, and operating systems designed to improve customer service and sustainability. He has led the development and implementation of processes to support Lean initiatives that reduce critical path lead-time, reduce expediting costs, capital improvement projects, inventory reduction, and trained and educated staff/employees in Lean Methodology. Alex is well recognized in the following areas: Value Stream Mapping, Hoshin Strategic Planning, Office and Floor 5S, Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), Process Failure Modes and Effect Analysis (PFMEA), Quality Improvements and Mistake Proofing, Six Sigma, Cellular Design, Standardize Work, Pull Systems (kanb an), Equipment Design and Installation (DFLMA), and Safety Programs. He has a B.S. in Industrial Technology Engineering from Mississippi State University and has also completed the Six-Sigma black belt program.