In my role as a coach and consultant, I’ve helped many healthcare organizations embrace and adopt a “Kaizen” style of continuous improvement. In the past few years, after co-authoring the book Healthcare Kaizen, I’ve had even more opportunities to coach leaders and staff on Kaizen.
Before getting involved with KaiNexus, the only “technology” available was a physical bulletin board (like this). It helps local teams to have problems, ideas, and their status display visually for all to see (rather than hiding ideas in a locked suggestion box).
While bulletin boards can be helpful for local teams, they have their limitations.
For one, it’s difficult for different departments or units in an organization to see the relevant and shareable ideas that are being worked on (or have been completed) by other departments. It’s even more difficult for different hospitals in a larger multi-site health system to see ideas, collaborate, and share. The same would be true for a large factory or a company with sites in different states or countries.
Kaizen software like KaiNexus plays a similar role of giving easy visibility to all staff and leaders through our web-based system and email updates. Anything that improves transparency, communication, and follow up within a team is a helpful technology.
How does KaiNexus affect me personally as a coach?
When I have clients who use analog technologies, like a bulletin board, it’s more difficult for me to have remote visibility into their progress, activity, and results. I can schedule conference calls with department leaders or internal process improvement coaches. I can ask them to send photographs of bulletin boards and of individual Kaizen cards or completed Kaizen summaries. But, there are time lags, incomplete information, and this sharing creates extra work for my clients, so it doesn’t always happen.
Given the chance, I would much rather prefer my clients be using Kaizen software instead of - or in addition to - bulletin boards. The KaiNexus technology makes it far easier for me to check up on their progress and to provide coaching and feedback in a way that doesn’t create more work for anybody.
Instead of somebody emailing me a photo of a board, I can simply log in to KaiNexus to see an instant status update and snapshot of how many ideas have been submitted in a timeframe and how many have been completed. Seeing this data (in numbers and charts) allows me to see if they are accelerating or maintaining their pace of improvement. If the numbers of ideas submitted or completed drops off, I can ask why and prompt a discussion with the client about techniques and methods they can use to encourage and solicit more ideas - sometimes by asking for ideas in different ways than they have tried previously.
I also get automated email updates about newly submitted ideas and those that have been completed. There are often opportunities to provide feedback and coaching. For example, if an opportunity for improvement just describes a solution, I might ask them to consider stating the problem that needs to be solved as a good starting point for Kaizen. If the leaders are saying that too many ideas are “out of our control,” I might push back and ask the team to look again at the problem, as it has been defined, and brainstorm other possible solutions or countermeasures. This coaching and feedback often leads them to rethink the situation and they’re more likely to find something they can implement (which is a great Kaizen behavior).
I can also use KaiNexus to see quantitative reports about their improvement work. Let’s say all of the improvements are focused on cost savings. I might coach them to also ask staff for ideas about quality and patient safety. If the cost savings aren’t being quantified, I might ask them to take a few minutes to try to tally up the impact of OIs that have a major cost impact (it doesn’t always make sense to take the time to add up every single cost savings, though).
KaiNexus gives me data and information I need to do more coaching and to be a better coach. I can interact with people through the KaiNexus system, or I can reach out to them via phone or email. In much of the same way, KaiNexus is of great benefit to internal process improvement coaches and facilitators, especially when they have multiple sites to coach.
Of course an electronic Kaizen software system is not a complete substitute for “going to the gemba,” but it can really help - especially when I’m thousands of miles away from a client.