Importance of continued measurement

Post date: May 15, 2017 by Shirl Diaz

Have you ever held a kaizen workshop that resulted in significant improvement, only to find six months down the road that the process has reverted to the old ways and the improvement was no longer evident? Why does this happen?

The main reason for this type of regression is lack of leader follow-up. With most kaizen events, we measure the improvement during the event and then at 30, 60, and 90 days afterward. If the improvement has been sustained during that period, we consider it a success and move on to something else. If we aren’t hearing anything negative, it must be okay, right? Wrong! If no one is tracking to ensure we don’t shift our focus away from the improvements that have been made, it is easy to fall back into old habits.

Continued focus on improvement work is necessary to sustain the change over time. Measurement should not be discontinued just because the “required” follow-up is complete. Everyone is busy and change is hard, but continued focus on improvement work is worth the effort. It will help protect the important gains you made in quality, safety, time, and so on. It will also allow you to quantify the value of your improvements over time. Measuring and aggregating the improvements over the first 90 days allows you to show the return on your investment of time and effort of the workshop. Continuing to measure and aggregate over time allows you to show the long-term return on kaizen.

Improvement work is a serious investment, including all the planning before the workshop, the participants’ time during the workshop, and the follow-up time afterward. But skimping on follow-up jeopardizes the sustainment of your improvement and the positive impact you’ve made for patients; it wastes precious time and money, and also has a negative impact on team buy-in and willingness to be involved in future kaizen workshops.

 You may not need to measure monthly once targets are met, but quarterly measurements will allow you to know if the new processes are being followed and if the gains are being sustained. So, reserve time on your calendar for regular check-ins with the team and quarterly re-measures and you’ll see continued success. Your patients will thank you, and so will your staff!