In trying to develop a meaningful blog, I decided that it makes sense for me to share the projects, opportunities, and insights that I have had throughout my career. I believe these topics apply to all areas of business, but when based in healthcare have even another layer of challenges. I will attempt to break these “projects” out in subsequent blogs to keep them short, simple and easy to follow.
In healthcare, surgery is one of those areas that change is an integral part of the job, with the necessity for speed and “delivery” for patient care being the top priority. It’s pretty common for many older hospital facilities to have a physical footprint where the department is antiquated with jumbled storage areas that developed as building structures were added to meet primary needs instead of just tearing it all out and starting over. Space in hospitals, especially in surgery – is at a premium with the number of surgery suites and other revenue producing areas being viewed as the higher priority. Adding additional procedural space and services has the extra impact of increasing storage space needs, but is often not well thought out which then causes every available nook and cranny to be stuffed with supplies, instruments, and equipment necessary to provide these valuable services. Another obvious challenge is that the staff working in these areas are healthcare workers – not storage experts so they just work with what they have – which means developing habits of memorizing storage locations without rhyme or reason with lots of hiding spots for those things they don’t want to run out of. Another variable is the age or longevity of the staff can often be a complication too because moving things can be perceived as slowing the process down when they need to get the task done as quickly as possible.
Identifying this situation and recognizing the need for optimization and standardization may seem like a no-brainer, but getting everyone on board to change it was a daunting task. For some reason accommodating cutting edge technology change into the daily workflow just wasn’t as scary as re-arranging the storage space especially when there were other areas involved such as materials management, sterile processing, facilities, etc.
- Step 1 – Sharing the Vision: it is important to show value for time, money, and other resources which starts with leadership and continues through the ranks from the top to the bottom. I like to shoot for the moon because even reaching the stars can have major impact and helps people see what’s possible. It really only takes a couple of influential people to catch the vision to start the ball rolling.
- Step 2 – Breaking it Down: large projects with overlapping dependencies can be overwhelming so it is important to have a plan and define a path. It was really important in this particular project to break out all of the smaller projects with projected timelines, resources, and expected outcomes. The plan typically evolves as the project progresses so it is important to share that opportunities to provide input throughout the project is not only okay, but expected to have an end product that everyone can be proud of. The plan must include elements of who, what, where, when, why to help people understand the journey.
- Step 3 – Developing a Team and Ownership: this step also needs to accommodate workplace busy and slower periods so participation can be maximized. When the team is empowered by leadership and co-workers to develop the necessary changes; they are the cheerleaders, trainers and support the change after implementation which is key for sustainable change.
Stay tuned to track the progress of this project as I break out the various “smaller projects” so you can see what a success this project truly was when completed.
Incorporating process and efficiency into your life is just like cooking; finding the perfect recipe, buying and assembling all of the ingredients, utensils, etc., and then approaching the task systematically. According to The Pioneer Woman, a popular food blogger and personal favorite – “Reading the recipe through is especially important if you’re a new cook. Process and technique matter and to successfully execute a dish, it’s important to know what to expect and not miss a step.” The same is true whether you are trying to run your home and family or a successful business because it is all about managing time and resources more efficiently. This is something I have always cared a lot about. Looking back at the jobs I have held over my life, process optimization has been a common thread and I have found that, like a recipe, it helps to know where you are going, but also what the obstacles are along the way so you can strategize and make improvements. As with most things, simple is usually better, and the best plan for optimization usually revolves around getting rid of extra steps, reworking a procedure to reflect natural tendencies, identifying waste, and finding the tasks that don’t add value. All of these are opportunities you can and should cash in on. Understanding the basic building blocks of workflows which include “actions, conditions, and steps” within your own processes and systems can help improve your productivity and efficiency.
There are so many solutions available today. If you are a techy, there is probably an app or a software solution and if you consider yourself somewhere in the middle, you may be willing to find a solution that incorporates some technology, but still includes a manual element. In the end, however you want to do it – the key is to get done sooner than later than and as complete as is necessary, no more, no less.
The best place to start with a process revitalization project is with the basics: making sure everything your business depends upon is easy to do, and nothing is falling through the cracks. This is much simpler than it sounds: a good example is networking which is a cornerstone of building and maintaining a successful business. Exchanging formal business cards is still a staple of business interaction, but the typical exchange can happen quickly and unless you have a photographic memory or are a phone-typing savant (and who is besides your 16 year old), you will likely have to circle back to add that information later. If we are being honest, many people miss this major step and even with best intentions, trying to remember or being organized keeping up with the cards the task often remains undone causing a mad search when looking for it later. This low-level task is ideal for an electronic solution- even if you aren’t particularly tech-savvy and there are several apps out there designed to solve this exact problem. Some direct you to take a picture of the card automatically creating a contact with all of the details filled in allowing you to annotate, and even share with others. If you are old-school like me, you would be only too happy to find a better solution to contact information than the old address or business card organizer books of the past! It is such a simple thing, but managing contacts is one of the very foundation tools for success and an improvement will send ripples of efficiency throughout your business. That’s the thing about process optimization. The results are exponential, and therefore exponentially rewarding.