When it comes to going lean, the best strategy is a sneak attack, say Drex DeFord and Wes Wright, who believe one of the biggest mistakes leaders make in implementing process improvement methodologies is trying to do too much, too soon.
If anyone would know the ins and outs of going lean, it’s DeFord, a consultant who has held CIO roles at Steward Healthcare, Seattle Children’s Hospital and Scripps Health, and Wright, who is corporate CTO at Sutter Health. Although the two originally met while serving in the Air Force more than 20 years ago, they have crossed path numerous times, spreading the word about lean to several different organizations.
“I’ve tried to insert Lean everywhere I could, especially in department processes,” says DeFord. “You can’t not be passionate about it once you understand it, because it really is common sense, and it’s something that if you do it well, you get results.”
Perhaps the biggest selling point of lean, he adds, is that although some components can be complex, “it doesn’t require rocket science. You can start off really simple.”
One way to do that is by replacing weekly 2-hour staff meetings with 15-minute daily huddles, which is what Wright implemented at Sutter Health, where lean processes had been embraced in clinical areas but were low on the priority list in the IT department.
“It’s fascinating to see how something as simple as putting in a formal communication system helps an organization,” he noted.
Still, Wright didn’t push it on his team, having learned that by starting small, he’s enabling them to realize the benefits of process improvement technologies, which in turn will drive their curiosity.
“It’s almost overwhelming when you say, ‘we’re going to start a Lean program. Here’s all things you need to do,’” says DeFord. On the other hand, by taking baby steps and letting people see the difference in their productivity, leaders will find that their staff want to learn more. “They don’t even realize they’ve taken four or five steps on the journey. Once they’re told what’s happened, they continue down the path on their own. That’s when you see folks digging into the books and seeing rapid process improvement workshops.”
In their presentation, which will be held Friday, Oct. 16 at 10 a.m., Wright and DeFord will emphasize the role of transparency in process improvement, stressing that by using lean techniques to help people see the work being done, CIOs can more easily find and eliminate waste, create greater efficiency, and maximize resources.
But it won’t be all serious, according to DeFord, who promises a “moderately entertaining” session for CIOs and other leaders. “I can guarantee that in this presentation, there will be appearances by Farrah Fawcett, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, and Henry Ford,” he says.
There will also be opportunities to “steal” ideas, according to Wright, who will provide examples of visibility systems being used at CHIME member organizations that can be replicated at other facilities. “We absolutely encourage plagiarism,” he notes.