One of the biggest challenges that Continuous Improvement Programs face is sustaining the program long term. How do you keep everyone from the front-line team members to the Senior Leadership committed to a culture of continuous improvement over the next 30 years?

This week’s blog is a continuation of my conversation with the leadership team of one of our healthcare clients, MaineHealth. I want to thank the team again for their participation; Jordan Peck, the Sr. Director of Performance Improvement, Ghassan Saleh, the Director of Operational Excellence, and Abigail Aim, Regional OpEx Program Manager.

Jordan described sustainability as “the balance between the quality of the KPIs and the interest of leadership”. There are several ways that the Center for Performance Improvement is working towards this goal of sustainability.

  1. It’s a daily commitment: The teams are applying what they’ve learned to their departments every day through the Lean Daily Management System. Though some Green Belts may not be working on projects, they are always participating in daily maintenance. Jordan shared, “Our biggest takeaway with Green Belts is that they know how to clearly define the problem. We find that KPIs get worded more effectively in a way that will lead to a real process change.”
  2. Keep raising the bar: The Center for Performance Improvement facilitates leadership report outs and Gallery Walks that showcase the project successes and highlights the potential of these improvements. This provides opportunities to reenergize leaders, increase leadership buy-in and increase the rigor for the program.
  3. Keep developing your team: Ghassan and Abigail shared about the focus they have been putting on developing their Managers.

“When we first rolled out, we had a training for the managers, but we would have an Opex lead or other staff members serving as the Gemba coaches. These coaches didn’t have the pull that a manager would have.”

To address these challenges, they developed additional training for the managers and also created a Manager Fellowship program. This program brings those managers that have great lean leadership potential together for 4 sessions where they are equipped in the areas of coaching, tool application, strategic alignment, and employee engagement.

“It is hands-on and has them going out doing assignments,” Abigail explained. The training is intended to develop these managers to be the Gemba Coaches, helping their departments to align the KPIs more strategically and help them to become more complex.

When tools are utilized for everyday activities at every level, you are well on your way to achieving the continuous improvement culture you desire. This requires engagement and commitment from senior management and a high level of discipline within the organization. Initially, some resistors could perceive continuous improvement as additional and unnecessary work, but as projects progress and daily results are achieved, employees will see that the process simply helps them perform their roles in a far more effective manner, giving them greater potential for personal development and ensuring that their organization remains competitive.

What is your experience with sustainability?  We would love to hear from you.