My Healthcare Kaizen co-author Joe Swartz works in Indianapolis in the Franciscan St. Francis Health System. They use the term “kaizeneer” to describe those employees and staff members who initiate and participate in “kaizen,” or continuous improvement, activities. One of those kaizeneers featured in our upcoming book is Dan Lafever, Information Services Quality Manager. Dan has his own web presence, on his blog (The Kaizen Way – Little by Little Change), Twitter, and a YouTube channel. I'm happy to feature a few of those videos here today. The excerpt in our book that introduces Dan in Chapter 8, “The Art of Kaizen” (presented here in unedited draft form):
Dan Lafever, Information Services Quality Manager and one of the strongest Kaizeneers at Franciscan, has integrated Kaizen throughout his life. Dan sees opportunities so frequently that he now gifts others with his thoughts and ideas in what he calls “random acts of Kaizen.” If he sees an opportunity for improvement in something someone else is doing, he will walk up to them and begin a dialogue to probe if they would be interested in some improvement ideas.
As you might guess, not everybody is open to receiving ideas from others. For example, Dan was in a grocery checkout and he noticed a grocery item fall on the floor. He asked the cashier how many times a day something falls and she replied it happens several times a day. Dan asked, “Have you ever thought about putting up a barrier so nothing falls?” She replied, “No, I haven't” and didn't appear interested, so Dan didn't push the conversation any further.
But, if people seem eager, Dan will ask them if they have considered trying to do the task in question a different way. If they seem genuinely interested, he might bring up an idea by asking it in the form of a question, “have you considered doing it this way?” and he will explain the new possibility. Then, he will work with that person to co-create a solution. Even if Dan's initial idea is a good one, this collaboration is a critical step in the improvement process.
One time, he was in a sandwich shop and noticed the breakfast sign in the window was curled, making the sign difficult to read. He asked the owner, “Did you know your sign is curled?” The owner was interested in improvement and one Kaizen idea led to several others. Then, the owner asked Dan to come talk to talk to his staff about Kaizen. To Dan, once you catch the Kaizen fever, you start thinking that just about anything can be improved. Dan now notices how people perform activities and asks himself, “Why is that done that way?” To Dan, random acts of Kaizen are a matter of raising awareness, questioning why, jointly solving problems, and sharing those ideas that could help people find a better way. Dan said, “There is always another way. There is always a better way.” The key is engaging people in change and improvement.
Dan lives the Kaizen culture and practices kaizen in his own life (since Kaizen isn't about forcing others to change). Many of his documented kaizens are shown in the book as examples, both from work and from his home. Here's the first video he posted on YouTube, a workplace Kaizen that's very clever. Rather than just dealing with the screen problem, somebody came up with an inexpensive, homegrown solution:
In his second video, Dan made a small improvement to his nameplate on his box in the mailroom, so he could always find his box, even if things got shifted a bit as employees come or go.
Thanks to Dan for sharing his kaizens for a broader audience. It's a core principle of Kaizen that you should share your ideas with your colleagues throughout your department and throughout your wider organization.
As we eventually built out our real website for Healthcare Kaizen (preview it here), we're hoping that people will be willing to share Kaizen examples publicly, whether it is a “Quick and Easy Kaizen report” or a short video like Dan or the kids at this school have made. What do you think? Can we build a community of kaizeneers? Would you be willing to participate? If so, in what ways?
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Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation: