Power of Observation for Lean Six Sigma Initiatives in Health Care

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Lean / Six Sigma

Anantha Kollengode
Quality Improvement Analyst
Mayo Clinic

Observation of process/people is a very effective data collection tool that is often overlooked. This simple methodology provides powerful information about the voice of the customer, work-around and deviations that is not captured elsewhere. Using examples from healthcare the tools needed for effective observations and valuable tips will be provided.

Understanding the customer needs (explicit and implicit) is vital for any successful lean or six sigma improvement initiatives. Teams often rely on written policies or existing processes to come up with improvement that are not very effective. Observation of processes and/or people provides powerful insights about work-around, deviations, process flow and behavioral issues not identified. It helps unearth hidden factories within processes. It also helps in confirming the results of interviews or process analyses.

Using examples from healthcare, the discussion will highlight the power of observations. These include ease of observations, using people from other areas to get fresh perspective, and tips for successful observations. The examples will illustrate how observations were instrumental in developing metrics for process measurement, in improving work flow, in removing waste, and in bringing into focus human factors into observations. The outcomes for these observations will be shared (at least three different healthcare examples will be used).

The discussion will also highlight some helpful tools for effective observation, such as process observation sheets, areas of wastes to watch for and communication needed to allay fears of staff being observed.