With the change of season and probably more time at home thanks to COVID-19 lockdowns, you might be thinking about spring cleaning. Perhaps you’re even considering applying some Marie Kondo principles for your cleanup. For those who don’t recognize her name, Ms. Kondo is an organizing consultant, author, and television host who is known for her philosophy, “Discard everything that does not spark joy.”
It might also be time to apply “Marie Kondo” principles to your organization’s operations. An alternate philosophy could be “Discard everything that does not give your customers joy.” Any unnecessary process creates unnecessary cost. And in an era focused on the “value” of services, resources spent on a service that no one wants or a process that does not provide added value to the customer can be better spent on something that enhances a customer’s experience. This is essentially the strategic quality concept of David Garvin in action – reducing costs that customers don’t value (see The “M” Word In Health & Human Services Strategy—Why Marketing Should Be Part Of The Everyday Conversation and Want New Health Plan Contract Opportunities? Think New Marketing Model).
There are many ways to approach the tasks of “reorganizing” your operations. Arvin Singh, MBA, MPH, MHL, LSSGB, PhD-c, chief operating officer of Odyssey House Louisiana, discussed how the organization used Lean Six Sigma to do just that during the “Lean Six Sigma & Operational Efficiencies In Health Care” session at The 2020 OPEN MINDS Performance Management Institute last month. “If you eliminate waste and look for inefficiencies, you can save millions of dollars,” said Mr. Singh, who talked about how Lean Six Sigma can reduce frustration caused by antiquated systems for care delivery.
The origins of the concept are in the manufacturing field—some concepts were tested at Toyota in the 1940s (Lean) and at Motorola in the 1980s (Six Sigma). These concepts are now used in tandem in many organizations—including health and human services. Lean Six Sigma uses data to take subjectivity out of the process and reengineer the equation. There are eight elements of waste in the LEAN approach, including overproduction, overprocessing, inefficient conveyance, inventory, unnecessary motion, defects, rework (or what Mr. Singh called correction), and waiting.
“Just because you’ve been doing it [a specific process] doesn’t make it efficient, and it doesn’t mean it helps a patient,” said Jerry Shorthouse, director of sales, TenEleven Group, a sponsor of the session. Mr. Shorthouse added that using data reports prompts more strategic discussions with team members about what makes the most sense given limited resources.
Assessing processes and productivity data is a helpful way to identify waste. At Odyssey House, data is collected and continuously updated to dashboards, which the team is trained to review and use (see Using Data To Follow The Money & Stay True To The Mission). For example, the team assesses the amount of time each health care professional spends with consumers during appointments to assess productivity. They are also always seeking ways to use technology tools—such as billing and scheduling software—to streamline processes, optimize staff time, and improve the customer experience.
The Lean Six Sigma journey helped the Odyssey House executive team define value and map value-added activities within the organization. The first step was for executives to define value, which helps everyone focus on what customers want to buy, not simply on what they’ve always delivered. This helps them identify what consumers want or need and what are they willing to pay extra for, Mr. Singh explained. The next step was to identify and eliminate bottlenecks and focus more time on value-added activities. By mapping processes, team members can identify inefficiencies that can be streamlined so the organization can refocus limited resources on value-added activities.
As a result of their work with Lean Six Sigma, Mr. Singh identified elements of waste in the billing and scheduling processes that were streamlined with automation. The team implemented a centralized call center for its four locations and reduced lost calls from 250 a month to 10 a month, and reduced call transfer time from 90 seconds to 10 seconds. “This work can save you time, costs, headache, and reduce all of your inefficiencies,” Mr. Singh emphasized.
Like spring cleaning, or Marie Kondo-ing, executive teams that embrace Lean Six Sigma should focus on one process or program at a time, gather data reports and metrics in a central location, and encourage transparency and data sharing. And here’s a piece of advice — put yourself in your customer’s shoes so you can identify what matters to them and how you can reconfigure your organization’s resources to deliver it.
To learn more about using data to manage strategically, check out these resources from the OPEN MINDS Industry Library:
- Using Data Dashboards To Manage Organizational Performance
- Using Data To Follow The Money & Stay True To The Mission
- The Essential Tech List For Value-Based Purchasing
- Structuring (& Budgeting For) Analytics
- Technology & Reporting Requirements For Population Health Management: Preparing For Value-Based Reimbursement
- Planning & Budgeting For Technology: How Much Is Enough?
- From Pain Point To Revenue
- Coordination, Care & Value-Based Contracting
- The Evolution Of Successful Value-Based Contracting
- From Big Data To Small Data—From The Ideal To The Possible
Get more information about innovative approaches to improving your business June 2 at The 2020 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute for the keynote address, Innovation By Design: Capturing Value In Healthcare led by Carl Clark, M.D., president and chief executive officer, Mental Health Center of Denver.