How many times have you heard, or said, these exact words? In my experience, this phrase begins to echo during brainstorming or when solutions are being created by a team during a rapid improvement activity.
Another common statement is, “We met, talked about some of these same issues and discussed potential solutions…”
However, nothing happened next.
I myself can recall saying the same things. So, if solutions have been known or pointed out in the past, why hasn’t anyone solved them? Why is it taking us so long to solve them, and why does it seem that the same issues keep coming back? A key question to ask is, “Who will start solving these issues or breakdowns that have been hanging around and are chipping away from our productivity and goals?” Well, these are all great questions and often the solutions are not that easy.
I can remember a wonderful and talented director I coached a few years ago. Sherri was handpicked by an executive member to change things around in the department. She was in one of my A3 classes and she was definitely a star student. At the end of one of the sessions she invited me to tour the department. She gave me a quick history and tour of the department and clearly pointed out processes, procedures and areas where she had led and implemented changes.
“Things are a little more stable now, however, on a daily basis it seems that I get intertwined with all sorts of fire fighting from light bulbs needing changing, to billing process with errors, all the way up to patients and physicians being dissatisfied. It just seems that the minute I walk in those doors, I put a fire hat on, and boy, I start running.”
Sherri was a well respected leader and everyone in her department was excited to have her as their leader. So, I looked at her and asked her with a smile, “How can I help you Sherri?”
“Well Alex, I will be honest with you, today in the A3 class I was a little embarrassed when one of my staff members brought out an issue that she has never shared with me before, but she felt very comfortable sharing it to the class. She also added that she has been telling leadership about this particular issue for years. She’s a great employee with great ideas and a great attitude. I want my staff to feel comfortable to come up to me and tell me things. I don’t want them to think or feel that I’m the same old run of the mill leader.” I was very impressed with Sherri’s desire to win, and not being afraid to try new things.
“Well Sherri, A3 is a great tool to use in solving issues and eliminating them, but let’s start with you. In a way, you have become the one with all the answers, the one to go to when any issues arise no matter the size of the issues. Everyone expects for you to fix everything every time. For you, this will only frustrate you and eventually burn you out. For them, they will receive very little coaching and development structure from you and both the staff and the department will never achieve and operate at their full potential.”
While there are many ways to start correcting and changing these behaviors, I got Sherri started with the following:
- Change and challenge your daily actions and activities often. Ask yourself, ‘does what I’m doing really focus on improving patient care? Am I creating a proactive team that takes steps to solve problems as they emerge?’ Become the compass.
- You must share and communicate clearly both what the right work should be and its purpose.
- Create a simple, realistic, and manageable platform that you can review on a daily basis.
- Establish responsibility and ownership. Provide them with the right tools and training to win, but first start with one tool. This means that some staff members will challenge your actions and decisions.
- Celebrate your wins and successes. Reward your team for their accomplishments. Make it big and known to all. In healthcare this is often a missed action item.
“Please remember Sherri, this is just a start. As your team starts to function as potential championship contenders, your role will then be to create a climate where your staff’s worth is determined by their willingness to learn new skills and grab new responsibilities, thus perpetually reinventing their jobs. The question then becomes not what they have known or what they have been saying for years, but rather how much they have improved their work for years.”
“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”
— Colin Powell, Ret. Gen. & Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
This week’s blog was written by Alex Maldonado, an associate 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.