A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit on a panel to discuss IT Alignment with Operational Goals in the Healthcare community. It was a lively discussion with several great opinions. What bothered me was the conversation the evening before the event at a dinner for the panelists and sponsors.
At the dinner, I was conversing with a CTO and we were discussing the “stimulus” package. He was ecstatic over how much money would be heading his way and how this would help him and his budget problems, and how he could help more patients. I acknowledged helping more patients is great, but maybe he should take a focused look at his processes first to see what he can gain there and to make sure he is not spending money on bad processes. I said, “As the saying goes, if you have a mess and you automate it, when you’re done all you have is an automated mess.” He looked at me like I had horns coming out of my head! He then politely said, “Oh, we’ve already done that.” Our conversation was interrupted before we could continue.
What worries me is the “we don’t have that problem” attitude. I have dealt with his organization. He DOES have that problem. He just can’t see it. They had done a re-engineering project several years ago, and had some success in several areas. They thought they were doing process improvement. They may have done process improvement, but they were a long way from continuous improvement.
There are two important things to remember when starting a process/continuous improvement program:
1) To get the full impact, it must be a continuous process. You can never think you are done improving.
2) Leadership must get “boots on the ground” and see how the processes are being executed. They must ask questions and get engaged.
There’s a lot more, but without these, you will not get the full, sustained impact of a continuous improvement program.
So how do you know you truly have a continuous improvement program? – When you stop calling it a “continuous improvement program.” And then, when someone from outside the organization comments on what a great CI program you have, your response is, “Oh, I hadn’t noticed – that’s just the way we do things here.”