Rapid Cycle Improvement
The dictionary defines inertia as “inertness, especially with regard to effort, motion, action, and the like; inactivity; sluggishness.” In many workplaces this definition could simply read “See meeting.” Meetings, in particular those run by management intended to fix problems, are easily all of the above. Eventually the meeting to solve the problem is the problem, and more meetings -- even new positions -- are needed.
One way out of this is to adopt a “rapid cycle improvement” process designed to fix problems quickly. Instead of collecting large amounts of data, using multidisciplinary teams, and meeting many times, an RCI only meets a few times with a handful of people. The website HCPro describes the following 90-day cycle:
- First 30 days - first team meeting to identify issues, population, data sources, and assign tasks
- Second 30 days - review the data, select improvement strategies, identify success
- Final 30 days - study the data, plan any next steps that are needed, assign follow up tasks
This model still follows the Deming Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle but on a smaller scale with fewer resources and, most importantly, greater involvement from direct staff. For example, it has been used at William Beaumont Hospitals to improve workflow and the time nurses spend with patients. A summary on the ARHQ website has this revealing statement: “The projects represent a cultural shift in how the organization approaches quality improvement by ... placing responsibility for improvement in the hands of small teams of management and frontline staff rather than management alone.”
The idea of letting the people doing the work meet and decide how to fix a problem with the help of a facilitator in a short span of time shouldn’t be novel, but it can be in an organization clogged by bureaucratic inertia. In fact it is downright impossible without the support and recognition of management, so it means fundamental change in any organization.
How about your laboratory? Are you empowered to improve things?
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