“Lack of Time” for Kaizen is a Problem Statement, Not an Excuse
As I've talked to and worked with hospitals and their leaders about Kaizen, or continuous improvement, the concepts, mindsets, and methods make sense to people. They understand how Kaizen is different than the outdated and ineffective suggestion box method.
A common response is “Mark, that makes sense… but we just don't have time….”
I'd like to make the case that “lack of time” should not be an excuse that shuts down the possibility for Kaizen, but rather it's the first problem statement to which we can apply our Kaizen thinking…
“Lack of time” can't be the end of the story. Healthcare is too important, for patients and our staff, for us to accept “lack of time” as an excuse. Leaders should ask “what can we do to free up time for Kaizen?” If improving is a priority (a necessity, really), we have to make time for it.
A number of hospitals in the Lean Healthcare movement have instituted a practice of having a two-hour “no meeting zone” at the start of each day. No, this doesn't create more time for catching up on email. The no-meeting zone time is used for going to the “gemba,” or the place where the work is done. Leaders participate in team huddles and participate in Kaizen during that time.
Speaking of email, there have got to be ways to encourage people to use email more intelligently, so it isn't such a time sink for everybody. Can everybody hold to, for example, a “three sentences” policy? Can we reduce the number of unnecessary CCs and BCCs? I don't know what the answers are for your organization… but that's another area that could be addressed to free up time.
You can look into your own work, as a manager or leader, to identify time or activities that are the most wasteful. Are there meetings that you can send a delegate to? Or maybe some meetings should be replaced with a short email status update.
We explore this theme a bit in our book, Healthcare Kaizen.
Either way, my challenge to you is to use “Lack of Time” as a problem statement for the PDSA process. Or create an “A3” about how to free up time for Kaizen. What are the root causes of “lack of time?” What would you propose as countermeasures?