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The Power of Small Ideas in Improving Vaccinations

Posted by Mark Graban

May 11, 2021 3:44:22 PM

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With all of the work going on to set up and run Covid-19 vaccination centers around the world, the principles of Lean process design are really helpful. But, as hard as we might try, no process is ever perfect, so having a culture of continuous improvement from the get-go is incredibly important.

Many times, when you ask an employee to share an improvement idea, they might say, “I can’t think of anything.” I’ve heard that in different organizations -- have you? Have you heard that at a vaccination site you might be working with?

When people say, “I don’t have any ideas,” they often mean, “I can’t think of a million-dollar idea.” They assume (incorrectly) that a manager (or an outside consultant) only asks for big ideas with a substantial financial impact when we start a conversation about problems, ideas, or improvements. 

At KaiNexus, we believe wholeheartedly in the power of small ideas making a big difference. You can watch a video (or read the transcript) here if you like. There’s compelling research from Robinson and Schroeder that shows that, across industries, 80% of the total improvement potential in an organization comes from the accumulation of many small ideas.

You can listen to a podcast that I did with Prof. Alan Robinson on the topic, and we recommend his books, including The Idea-Driven Organization.

Many managers, sadly, think small ideas aren’t worth talking about because each one, on its own, doesn’t have a significant return on investment. But, when we create a culture of continuous improvement, there’s an enormous accumulation of benefits from the small ideas. As this Japanese hospital CEO told me once, we’re more likely to find a BIG idea by looking for many small ones. 

As we launched our free “VacciNexus” site, we were thrilled to see many improvements being shared, both large and small. But, we often hear people say (directly or implied) that they think their ideas aren’t worth sharing -- but they are!

Here are some examples of small improvements that VacciNexus users have shared:

Visual Cues to Show When Chairs Are to Be Sanitized

In the post-vaccine observation area, colored paper inside a plastic sleeve was attached to the back of the chairs that the clients would rest in for the post 15 minutes observation period. They were asked that, on departure, that they flip the colored paper over to the back of the chair. This visual alerted the sanitizing staff which chairs were to be sanitized.

Giving Patients Digital Timers for Observation

How do you make sure that they actually stay for that 15 minutes and make sure they're OK? They just give them timers. Timers. They press start. It counts down 15 minutes. Have a seat in any of these seats. Timer goes off. You bring it back up. They clean it. It's like the size of a business card kind of timer.

I thought that was an ingenious approach to put it in the hands of others, literally, with a timer. When this goes off, you're free to leave. That has worked really well.

Maintaining Physical Distancing at Check-in

Turn the registration table end on and sit at the short end to keep the client 2m back. No need for plexiglass or full PPE then.

On-Deck Chairs

I wrote a blog post about another small improvement -- the “on-deck” chairs at a Toyota-designed clinic. Note, this wasn’t their initial design -- it was a small improvement that was made after launching the clinic site. 

Small Ideas DO Matter!

Big ideas with a big impact are great. But, those are often few and far between. Small ideas not only lead to some improvement, but they encourage and inspire others to keep improving -- so we keep accumulating the impact. Small ideas are more easily shared and copied (and then improved upon sometimes) while inspiring more small improvements (and the occasional discovery of a big idea). 

If you haven’t used VacciNexus because you’re afraid your ideas are too small to share -- please join us and share!! If you stopped using VacciNexus because you thought your ideas weren’t big enough to matter, they do matter! Please come back and share. We also will be hosting a webinar with Dr. Joy Dobson, Senior Physician Consultant at 3sHealth in Saskatchewan, Canada, about An Innovative “Patient First” Vaccination Clinic Design. You can register here for the webinar:

An Innovative “Patient First” Vaccination Clinic Design

May 18 from 1:00 - 2:00 pm ET

Register Now


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