Four Key Components of Successful Process Improvement Programs – Part 1

Vinarsky, John 2012

by John Vinarsky, Vice President, Executive Solutions, Intalere

The movement towards value-based purchasing models has made the concept of process improvement and its methodologies an important component of healthcare’s future. Whether Lean, Six Sigma, Total Quality Management or Re-engineering, a scientific, methodological approach to becoming a performance-driven organization will be vital to achieving success in the new model. Let’s look at four key components of successful process improvement programs.

Choose the Method That’s Right for Your Organization

At the core of process improvement is finding a process or method that is the right fit for your organization. While all focus on engaging organizational involvement to improve quality, operational and financial performance through implementing stable processes, there are some general differences.

All are based to some degree on data, standardization and reducing process variation, but Lean and Six Sigma are much more grounded in this foundation than some other methods. Each of the systems might have a bit of a different primary focus – Six Sigma is mainly about reducing variation, Lean about removal of waste and other systems, more about removing obstacles or roadblocks from a process.  Once you get past the main focus, these methods seem to look very similar or aspire to the same things in many cases.

Whole Organization Buy-In

Once the method is chosen, there must be organizational alignment and accountability that begin at the very top. Leadership must first exhibit a commitment to organizational transformation and continued alignment in all areas. They must also communicate a clear strategic framework with explicit goals, timetables and accountability/ownership. This framework must foster an environment in which people feel free and safe to engage in improvement. Encouragement of innovation is key, as is constant communication. If your efforts are to be successful, your model must be continued and sustained for a period of years, ultimately becoming ingrained in the culture of your organization.

Next week we’ll look at getting started and how to sustain improvements.

To learn more, download the new Intalere white paper, Transforming Your Healthcare Organization Through Process Improvement.

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