As a student of Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s books and teachings, I’m not a big fan of slogans and posters in the workplace.
Last week, visting a hospital laboratory to do research for my upcoming book Healthcare Kaizen: Engaging Front-Line Staff in Sustainable Improvements, I saw the following poster hanging over a metrics display board where team meetings are held:
When they talk about “outliers,” they mean any test result that took longer than their threshold for a given department. Before the start of their Lean journey, the lab could measure the number of test results as a percentage of their daily testing.
Many years into their Lean journey, this is now expressed as an integer – often 0 or maybe just 1 or 2 tests a day that exceed the standards for excellent care. Each individual outlier is discussed by the team (in a timely manner) to understand what the problem was in the system or the process – not laying blame on any individual.
After practicing this approach, they came up with the pictured sign. Asking why (a test result took so long) helps patients tomorrow (by reducing or eliminating those causes of delay and poor quality).
The same could be true in a startup – Asking Why Today Helps Customers Tomorrow.
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