Monday, July 30, 2012

Bravo, Ipswich! (And I don't mean the Tractor Boys.)

John Watson, director of operations at Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust in the UK, included the following message in this week's staff newsletter.  Going to gemba is at the heart of Lean.  This is a great start!

Many hospital managers find their time tied to countless meetings, reviews of performance targets and other duties that take them away from the ‘front line’. We lose contact and understanding. However, what we know is once we spend more time out where the work is being done watching what is going on we will be surprised what we learn. We learn that the jobs we are asking our staff to do every day are often not do-able because there are not stable and reliable processes to support them. It helps managers to know what the problems are every day that are preventing our staff delivering waste-free care because we can then prioritise our work.

Therefore we have started a weekly process where a group of 20 senior Trust managers block every Tuesday morning to just go out to the front line and respectfully watch what’s happening. Each week we plan to place these managers, myself included, into 20 different areas. This is not checking up on colleagues. This is watching to learn and see where we can better help.

Last week I observed Sarah Willingham undertaking the receptioning of the Ophthalmology Outpatient clinic. I was struck by her calmness and professionalism despite the relentless pace of how her job needed to be done. I noticed small things that we simply haven’t designed properly to help such staff. Her phone was on another desk and she had to get up repeatedly to answer it or use it to chase notes. My hope is that gradually we find ways to learn from such observations and correct the countless little things that our dedicated staff have to find a way through.

If you have an area you would like us to come and watch or if you would like to be involved please let me know. If you have to deal with a work process that you think could be made better and have an idea please let me know or ask us to come along and observe how you try to work with it. This is a simple but small yet crucial step into how we think and act differently.

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