It’s that time of the year! Football time is here in the state of Tennessee but I know that Tennesseans certainly don’t have any kind of monopoly on the excitement and anticipation associated with this sport season. No matter where I go, many of the people that I run into are anxiously awaiting their team’s opening game. It’s hard to miss the level of enjoyment that comes from this annual fall activity!

Football Coach

All team sports generally have one thing in common: a coach who is committed to making their team as successful as possible. Organizational improvement efforts, like applying Lean Healthcare concepts and tools to the improvement of regular healthcare value streams and work processes, need coaches too! Lean Healthcare initiatives can have a successful ‘kick off’ if leadership—especially at the middle management levels—accepts and relishes the opportunity to ‘Coach ’em Up.’

When we think about coaches of athletic teams, we typically can all agree on several of a good coach’s basic attributes:

  • Knowledge of the game
  • Ability to organize practices
  • Capability to develop game strategies
  • Interest in developing the skills of the team members
  • Recognition of team strengths and weaknesses, and the ability to make appropriate adjustments when required

A successful Lean coach certainly needs the skill set listed above. However, Lean coaches who are focused on improving team performance often need a few additional skills. These include:

  • The ability to resolve differences
  • An interest in building relationships
  • A drive to pursue creative solutions
  • The talent and commitment to motivate and empower those on the team to improve how they do their work

How does this list differ from what we typically expect from our supervising level of employees? Our observations often reflect that the typical supervision situation might be almost exclusively focused on accountability (i.e., “Let’s get it done!”). There is certainly nothing wrong with this. Even in a mature Lean operating environment, supervisors are always responsible for adherence to work standards.

However, Lean success requires a more balanced role for supervision, one that includes actively coaching for improvement. For supervisors, the Lean coaching begins with a clear recognition of performance gaps (perhaps through process performance metrics), and moves toward the empowerment and motivation of those who do the regular work to respond with improvement ideas. We coach to make sure that these ideas include the appropriate Lean concepts and tools!

Coaching requires practice, but good coaching almost always begins with an attitude: “We’re good but never good enough!”  As always, the commitment to ‘Coach ’em Up’ is the vital first step!

This week’s blog was written by HPP consultant and engineer David Krebs. David, a Six Sigma certified engineer, oversees various HPP projects and Lean Healthcare transformations for clients throughout the USA. David is also a Licensed Professional Engineer in the state of Tennessee, with over 30 years of experience in a variety of process and systems intensive industries, as part of firms in the U.S, Germany, and France.  David has achieved and maintained QS-9000 and ISO-14001 certification & received Nissans’ “Quality Master Award” on three occasions.  He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Detroit & an MBA from the University of Notre Dame.

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