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KaiNexus Blog

Everything Continuous Improvement

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Maggie Millard

As the Director of Marketing, Maggie educates the continuous improvement community, KaiNexus customers, executives, managers, and staff in just about every industry you can think of about improvement principles and KaiNexus' continuous improvement software. Her desire to improve the American healthcare system combined with a love of spreading knowledge to the far reaches of the internet inspires her work with KaiNexus every day. Maggie graduated from the College of William and Mary in 2010 with a BA in History. She spends her free time hanging out with her sweet, sticky, stinky new baby and two displaced dogs in the mountains of Virginia.
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Recent Posts

5 Unexpected Benefits of Improving from the Bottom Up

Posted by Maggie Millard

Jun 26, 2017 11:30:11 AM

What are the traits you look for when you hire new employees? If you’re like most people, you’re looking for employees that are intelligent, capable, problem solvers who take the initiative to get stuff done and do it well. It’s a shame that these same people who got hired for their mental faculties then so commonly get relegated to being a pawn in the corporate machine, with no autonomy or power to improve the business through their work.

In fact, some of the top reasons people leave their jobs are that they feel underutilized, aren’t given the opportunity to learn, grow, and improve, don’t feel that their work is meaningful, and are bored by their work. 

This is one of the striking differences between regular companies and those that strive for a culture of continuous improvement. The foundation of an improvement culture is the employees, who are empowered to make daily improvements to their work that increase their own happiness, add value to the products and services provided to customers, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their work.

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Employees in a culture of improvement are engaged in their work, know that their work is valued by their employer, and are invested in the success of the company.

Let’s take a look at the result of such engagement:

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Deciding to Take the Leap: A Look at Improvement Software

Posted by Maggie Millard

Jun 22, 2017 7:02:00 AM

Deciding when to move from a paper system of managing continuous improvement to a digital system is tough. You know that you're not as effective or efficient as you could be, but growing pains in an improvement culture come on so gradually, it's hard to know how much better things could really get with the right platform.

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Topics: Continuous Improvement Software

Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) and Snow Cones

Posted by Maggie Millard

Jun 21, 2017 7:26:00 AM

Preface: I’m in northern California today. Summer doesn’t even officially begin for three days and it is 107 degrees! So, the fact that I started thinking about what quality improvement and delicious frozen treats have in common should not imply that I’ve finally lost it.

Continuous quality improvement (CQI) is one of those things that is like a snow cone. It’s something that pretty much everyone can agree is awesome. Who wouldn’t want it?  “Always getting better is overrated,” said nobody – ever. Yet for some reason, not every organization has a plan for how to achieve CQI. Fewer still, have systems and processes in place to support it, and many that try never successfully reach their goals.

Why is that?

Let’s see if my snow cone analogy can help explain some of what conditions are necessary for CQI to catch hold.

 

If Neglected, It Will Melt

We don’t have hard data to back it up, but it is quite likely that the number one killer of CQI programs is simple neglect. Leadership gets very excited about this opportunity to revolutionize the organization, cut waste, and clobber the competition. They hold a meeting, send out a message, maybe even put up some signs and then go back to business as usual. Pretty soon, everything reverts to the old way of doing things, except that maybe employees are sharing Dilbert strips about CQI, or TPS, or Lean, or whatever you’ve called the program. (Don’t doubt that there is a Dilbert strip for all of them.) If you want to see what happens to CQI programs with disengaged leadership, just leave your snow cone on the driveway for the afternoon.

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Topics: Improvement Culture, Continuous Improvement Software

The 5 Things You Can't Spread Improvement Without

Posted by Maggie Millard

Jun 16, 2017 10:46:24 AM

When I was a kid, I used to slip out the back door in the mornings, whisk across the dewy yard, and sit in our tomato patch as the birds woke up across the neighborhood. It wasn’t a big garden - but it was big enough for a little girl to rest and smell the spring. If there’s one scent I associate with my childhood home in Virginia, it’s the tangy scent of blossoming tomato plants.

This year, for the first time in my adult life, I have my own yard. As the winter sky began to lighten and the woods behind my house turned from brown to green seemingly overnight, I couldn’t help but remember that childhood tomato patch. I ordered some heirloom seeds from the internet, dreaming of lemon-colored cucumbers, rainbows of tomatoes, and trailing vines of purple beans.

Now, to be frank, I have to say that my experience with gardening is limited to smelling my mom’s tomatoes. But how hard can growing seeds really be?

Turns out, it’s hard, you guys.

After tons of research, I decided on the plastic baggie method to sprout my little seeds. I laid them out with great precision, carefully spacing them and labeling the bags. I made large envelopes to keep them in the dark on a specially ordered heat mat.

And then I waited.

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A few days later, no progress.

A week later, a couple of sprouts!

A few days after that… a white, fuzzy, horrible mold smelling distinctly like death had overcome my would-be garden.

You see, I knew the basics of what a seed needs to grow. Moisture and warmth, and later, sunlight. Pretty basic stuff, right? We learned this in elementary school. 

What I didn’t realize was that they also need airflow. I did EVERYTHING else correctly, down to a T, but my seeds were still a total loss. You see, if you’re missing any one of the critical elements to growing plants, nothing will grow.

The same is true for an improvement culture.

It looks simple at first, and a quick Google search will tell you what you need to get started - a way to capture ideas, a way to collaborate, leadership behaviors - there’s so much content out there on this topic, it’s easy to feel like an expert. Then, when you struggle to spread your improvement culture, you’re left with a bag of moldy seeds wondering what went wrong.

Me? I was missing airflow. Your problems are much more difficult to solve, but as with my plants, the first step is figuring out exactly what you need for a sustainable improvement culture.

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Topics: Improvement Culture

The Need for Improvement Software to Measure Improvement KPIs

Posted by Maggie Millard

Jun 9, 2017 7:03:00 AM

We've written time and time again about the value of monitoring and measuring the impact, activity, and engagement of people in an improvement culture. Doing so enables you to track strategic progress, pinpoint problems, identify top performers, and inspire engagement - among other things. Your activity, engagement, and impact metrics are the vital signs of your improvement culture, yet many organizations fail to take the time to capture and evaluate these KPIs. A big part of the problem is that it's difficult to ensure that everyone logs an impact for every improvement or projects, you wind up trying to compare apples to oranges and can't aggregate the data, the numbers quickly become outdated, and there's no way to ensure that accurate numbers are shared.

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Topics: Continuous Improvement Software

Meet Up With Us at the 2017 Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit!

Posted by Maggie Millard

Jun 5, 2017 10:10:33 AM

This week in Palm Springs, California, organizations from around North America (and beyond!) will be coming together for a two-day conference highlighting advancements of (and challenges within) Lean in healthcare. The 2017 Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit is hosted by the Lean Enterprise Institute and the Catalysis Healthcare Value Network, organizations that have a long history of helping other collaborate and spreading Lean throughout healthcare. Highlights of the Summit include keynotes from progressive healthcare practitioners, a CEO panel with senior leaders, plenary sessions, and workshops.

As the leading provider of continuous improvement software with a deep history rooted in improving healthcare, of course KaiNexus is going to be there. This year, our KaiNexus attendees include Mark Graban (our VP of Innovation and Improvement), Jeff Roussel (our VP of Sales) and Greg Jacobson, MD (our co-founder and CEO). They are stoked to be meeting leaders of the Lean healthcare world along with our KaiNexus customers who are also HVN members (and Mark is teaching a sold-out workshop on Tuesday and is moderating the CEO panel).

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Why You Need Continuous Improvement Software to Share Vital Improvement Knowledge

Posted by Maggie Millard

Jun 1, 2017 7:52:00 AM

The role of continuous improvement software as a means to share information across organizational boundaries and between levels in a company is one of its most valuable - yet underrated - functions. We've written quite often about the need to share information openly and often in an improvement culture, believing that this is a fundamental practice in any successful organization. In today's post, let's see how some Lean professionals describe the benefit of this function of improvement software.

 

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Quotes to Make the Case for Strategy Deployment Software

Posted by Maggie Millard

May 30, 2017 12:30:53 PM

We get the chance to chat with folks who are interested in implementing strategy deployment software within their organizations almost every day. Most of the people we talk to really understand the need for this kind of solution and how it can benefit their company. Convincing others, however, can be a challenge. Not everyone immediately recognizes the valuable returns that a structured approach to strategy execution can provide. We’d like to help. Here are the most important elements of a compelling case for strategy deployment software, along with some relevant quotes from business leaders and other visionaries.

 

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Topics: Strategy Deployment

The Value of Millennials in a Kaizen Culture & How to Keep them Happy

Posted by Maggie Millard

May 25, 2017 4:03:23 PM

Millennials. The generation everybody loves to hate. The generation of cat videos, duck face selfies, and trendy eyebrows. Made up words like “on fleek” and “bae” might be making their way into your break rooms, and I’m willing to bet that they’re making you crazy. I generally consider myself to be a part of the younger crowd here at KaiNexus, and am technically a millennial, but even I have a colleague that frequently uses words and acronyms that I have to Google before responding. The struggle is real (see what I did there?).

Gen Xers are particularly irritated by millennials, often resenting the changes they demand in the workplace and finding their expectations and behaviors unrealistic and unprofessional.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at the value millennials bring to our companies, and what we need to do to keep them around. Because frankly, we need them.

  1. Communication

    Millennials thrive on communication. Whether it’s chatting with colleagues throughout the day, staying connected with the rest of the world 24/7, or engaging in back-and-forth with their bosses, they like to share ideas and learn from others. This is a particularly valuable trait in an improvement culture, because when a millennial has a good idea, you can bet they’ll share it with other people. They welcome feedback from others on their ideas, and value an open line of communication across silos and up the chain of command in their organizations. These people break down barriers with increased communication.
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Top Tips for Introducing Continuous Improvement to Employees

Posted by Maggie Millard

May 17, 2017 7:36:00 AM

Obviously, all of us here at KaiNexus are huge fans of continuous improvement. But I’m not going to lie, I find the name to be a bit of a problem. It is clear, succinct, and meaningful, so what could be the matter? Because continuous and improvement are basic English words that your employees and new hires likely understand, it can seem like there isn’t much need for detailed discussion around the topic. You can end up with a conversation that goes like this:

             Manager: “Here at ACME Corp, we practice continuous improvement.”

              Employee: “Ok. That sounds good.”

You’re just not likely to hear, “What do you mean by continuous improvement? Tell me more about that.” But there is so, so much more to tell. Here are our top tips for introducing continuous improvement to new team members or existing ones who haven’t been involved with it before.

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Topics: Spread Continuous Improvement