What also jumped out at me, in the article, is that the money comes from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (commonly referred to as the “stimulus” act).
That's a lot of money for training. What value and improvement will lots of training lead to?
It's a short article without too much detail. It reads, in part:
Rockford Health System gets a big boost to train employees on a system that aims to improve the patient experience.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity announced $788,000 in federal workforce investment funds for five health systems in the Stateline region.
Most of that money goes to Rockford Health System. It received $500,000 to train 834 employees on the Lean Six Sigma System, which is a program that improves quality and efficiency for patients.
Using Lean for improving the patient experience is certainly a great motivation – this can include improvements that reduce errors (improving quality and patient safety), reducing waiting times, and creating more patient-focused value streams.
But $500,000 for 834 people is $600 per person. We don't know if that buys a one-hour workshop or a two-day course.
Regardless, I have to question the value of training that many people all at once. Why? Because training alone tends to not accomplish much.
If (and I say “if” because we don't know) this is ONLY a training effort, I'd be afraid that it could be wasted money. Why? If we train people and then the organization doesn't have the capability to help all of those employees and leaders DO anything with the training, we might end up with a lot of frustrated people who have learned a few Lean concepts that sound good, but haven't translated into actually.
Again, I don't know if this is the case in Rockford, but it gives me pause because other organizations have gone down a failed “let's just train everybody and expect them to do great things” route.
Since 2005, I have done a lot of training and coaching of healthcare employees and managers in their first days or earliest days with Lean. Typically, when exposed to the core mindsets of Lean, people get really excited because they are getting a chance to examine their work and patient needs. They are learning new ways of looking at things and they're being told that Lean is about ‘kaizen' and employee engagement.
But what if people are trained and leaders aren't really on board with the idea of people making improvements? What if leaders are threatened by people taking initiative? What if managers don't help create time for people to study their process and to make improvements?
The training would go nowhere if the culture isn't ready for Lean and if there aren't resources available to help and mentor people with Lean.
I've always advocated, including in my book Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Satisfaction, that Lean shouldn't start as a “hospital wide” initiative. I've advocated starting small – with a scope of one value stream, such as emergency department flow (including upstream and downstream) or the laboratory flow (including specimen collection and results reporting). You can more easily create a “model line” area by training a smaller number of people and then, more importantly, get to DOING something with that training.
Once you've demonstrated success with Lean, then you can go train others and continue working on the management system in culture in those areas you're spreading Lean too – and continue working on it on a hospital-wide culture basis.
I hope Rockford is able to make effective use of those training dollars — those are partly MY tax dollars, so I hope they're used wisely.
What would you expect might happen, keeping in mind that we're speculating based on a short news story? What have you done with training in your hospital?
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