Is your continuous improvement strategy off track? – 3 telling indicators

The vast majority of healthcare institutions today are actively engaged in some form of improvement journey. A well designed and structured continuous improvement strategy is imperative to developing a transformational culture that drives sustainable improvements in safety, health care outcomes, and process efficiency. All of these things ultimately lead to better business performance. Success is possible only when employees in the trenches “get” what your leadership team is trying to accomplish. Here are three indicators that help you know whether you are on the right path, or whether it’s time to re-evaluate your strategy.

1. The One Reason: Do you have one reason above all others for why your employees should be actively engaged in continuous improvement? If so, can they articulate what it is? Walk the floor and ask any employee directly engaged in patient care why they are being asked to participate in a specific improvement activity. Every employee should be able to articulate the one reason why the improvement work they are engaging in is important. If you get a bunch of different answers, this is an indicator that your mission isn’t clear enough. Paul O’Neill the former CEO of Alcoa, the largest Aluminum company in the world chose to make safety the one reason to continuously improve. As a result, Alcoa has a track record as one of the safest companies in the world to work for. Significant financial performance improvement naturally followed as a result. The one reason needs to be something that everyone in the organization can rally around, no questions asked.

2. The Outcome: Every employee needs to see that the effort they made to improve actually generated the outcomes expected. Are you measuring the method instead of the outcome? For example, if you develop a standardized rooming process for patients to ensure that depression screening is completed on all patients in a certain age range, measure the depression screening results, not whether the standard work is being followed. If you aren’t getting the results you expected, then revisit the method. Many organizations focus on auditing the method and don’t look closely enough at the results. Employees lose interest because they can’t see how the work they did clearly ties to an outcome measure. Improvement feels like busy work, instead of being tied to an outcome.

3. Finder to Fixer Ratio: True north for developing a sustainable culture of improvement is when the finder to fixer ratio approaches 1:1. Naturally, this is indicative of an organization that is very mature in its improvement journey, however you should be able to see indications of this in your organization. During meetings, how often do employees present issues without accompanying solutions? How often do you see people in your organization taking it upon themselves to solve problems that affect their daily work? This is one of your best gauges of whether your employees “get it” or not.

Spend some time evaluating your strategy based on these three indicators. If any of these three indicators are off track, then it’s probably time to reevaluate whether your continuous improvement strategy needs some continuous improvement.

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