A few weeks ago, I attended a large healthcare conference in Las Vegas. Much of Thursday’s group general session was devoted to honoring extraordinary individuals who had done (or are doing) some extraordinary things. All the stories were incredibly impressive, and each of the people honored make the world better.
While I was watching these awards, I couldn’t help but put on my “lean healthcare consultant” hat. When we teach, train, or coach teams in lean healthcare methodology, we are ultimately working towards the development and/or improvement of operational systems that generate the outcomes we want, reliably.
To achieve that end, we look at how long the steps in a value stream take. We know that one sign of waste is if the time required to complete a step varies considerably based on the person doing the job. Ideally, in a successful lean healthcare transformation, we want to develop a system that is not dependent on specific individuals; that with the proper training and time, it is the system that brings about the desired outcomes. We want to create a system where “the right work is easier to do.” Therefore, completion of that “right work” should not be reliant on the heroic efforts of individuals willing to go above and beyond to get it accomplished.
However, in many instances, particularly in our healthcare system, we have set ourselves up to require just that–people have to perform extraordinarily to achieve the desired outcomes from our broken systems and processes. Particularly as a user of the healthcare system, I do not want a successful outcome to be contingent on extraordinary effort. And if that *is* required, then successful outcomes are certainly not regularly replicable and/or sustainable.
We certainly want to honor extraordinary people, but the best way to do so may be by creating better systems, ensuring that they use their gifts for something over and above just making a system function. Imagine what these extremely high performers could do if we enable their work ethic, entrepreneurship, and innovative spirit. Functional systems will enable more revolutionary innovation.
This week’s blog was written by Jamie Wilson.
Jamie is a Senior Manager with HPP and has more than 10 years of healthcare experience, spanning management consulting, hospital administration, business development, and hospital operations performance improvement. She currently leads Lean Healthcare transformations and performs specialized consulting for HPP. Jamie received her B.A. in Sociology with a dual concentration in Health and Medicine, Deviance and the Sociology of Law, graduating Summa Cum Laude from University of Pennsylvania. Additionally, Jamie received a M.S. in Healthcare Management and Policy from the Harvard University School of Public Health.