Hoarders and Stashers? Ask Why…
Short post today, but a simple message, I think. One of the best lessons I've learned about Lean management is about the need to ask “why?” Don't assume, don't blame – ask why.
It's a very common situation in a hospital to find hoarders everywhere. Be very careful when you enunciate that word, “hoarders,” or you'll get in trouble…
It's not uncommon to find that front-line hospital staff, including nurses and laboratory technologists, are hoarding and stashing inventory everywhere, in every hidden nook and cranny they can find. This isn't a pathological problem like you might see on some cable reality show.
We might find that lab techs have stored purple top blood collection tubes in eight different places, some obvious and some secret. I actually found this once – eight different storage spaces in a room that's maybe the size of your master bedroom.
Instead of blaming them or “beating them up” or saying “that's not Lean,” managers should ask, “Why do people hoard supplies?”
If you just punish people for hoarding, they'll find more creative ways to hide secret stashes.
Why do they do this?
Usually, it's because they don't trust the materials management or supply chain processes. To reduce the hoarding, we have to improve the process. Installing a simple and well-designed kanban system can do wonders – it can ensure the continuity of supply that nurses and other front-line staff need to provide patient care.
Fix the system, THEN eliminate the hoarding. Until you build trust, you're just punishing people for trying to do the right thing for the patient. Hoarding is a workaround – eliminate the need for the workaround…
I've seen a number of hospitals address, including some quite recently. I've taught people how to set up simple and effective kanban systems that are sustainable, with the right management focus and culture change.
What about your hospital?
Are there other situations where you need to “ask why” instead of just blaming people?