It has been right about three years since I was introduced to Dr. Greg Jacobson via a reader of this blog. It was great to meet a physician who had read, loved, and practiced the ideas from Masaaki Imai's book Kaizen. Greg had also published a journal article about his work… and this led to the spin off of KaiNexus from Vanderbilt University… and me getting involved with the company.
Our mission has shifted and evolved a bit as we've signed our first 25+ paying customers (all without a marketing budget or a full-time sales professional)… it's evolved a bit from “making improvement easier for healthcare organizations” to also solving some broader and really interesting problems that face all sorts of organizations – such as “how do you improve and then share and leverage ideas across your organization?”
Our initial customers were hospital departments that were trying to jumpstart or better facilitate Kaizen and continuous improvement (or other modes of improvement, like Six Sigma projects, WorkOut, etc.). Some customers shifted from using visual “idea boards” (like this, or below) to our web-based platform.
You can have physical visibility (with a bulletin board) and there's great simplicity… but there can be benefits to electronic visibility (on screens, as shown below).
For example, you can better collaborate across departments or distances. We have a trucking and logistics company as a customer and their drivers and mechanics use KaiNexus on laptops and iPhones… they wouldn't be able to see or use a physical board. We also have a semiconductor manufacturer who uses KaiNexus because paper and cards aren't good in “clean room” environments.
We have one health system that shifted from using boards and cards to KaiNexus. They reported that, by using KaiNexus, they were implementing a higher percentage of ideas and they were implementing them faster. That's a pretty good apples-to-apples comparison. And, it's easier for them to add up the results and benefits (these are both screen shots and data from a demo system):
As I've gone out and done “Kaizen Kickoff” workshops, clients often choose to start with Kaizen process with visual idea boards. Even with those boards being used successfully, different questions and problem statements arise, especially in, say, a health system with 10 hospitals and multiple clinics:
- How do we get, for example, the pharmacies at different sites sharing problems and opportunities they have identified?
- How do we get them collaborating on improvement when there are common problems?
- If they implement ideas on their own, how do they publish and share the improvements in a central repository, ensuring these ideas are shared?
- How do we easily tabulate the results (qualitative and quantitative) from our improvement efforts?
- How do we ensure that people get recognition for really noteworthy improvements?
- How does senior leadership identify which departments (or sites) are doing the best improvement work (to go learn from)? How do they identify who needs the most coaching help?
We think these are problems that KaiNexus addresses really well.
Do you face these challenges? Are you solving them? We'd love to hear what you think – please leave a comment on this post.
Even if an organization wants to use visual idea boards locally, they often still have the “global” questions to answer.
As we wrote about in Healthcare Kaizen, my co-author Joe Swartz‘s organization built a home-grown web database that they enter completed Kaizens into. As with KaiNexus, their repository is searchable for people across different hospital locations.
KaiNexus – the Next Phase
As with any startup, there are ups and downs – it's natural. It happens. But, it's really interesting to figure out how to build a company, especially when everyone involved is so passionate about improvement and unleashing the potential of people in our customer organizations. It's a challenge I love… and 2014 will be a particularly exciting and upbeat time. While we have customers and revenue, we thought it made sense to take on an additional round of funding, as KaiNexus announced here.
Going forward, I'm going to be an employee with a new title: Vice President of Innovation and Improvement Services. I will be working to build our professional services offerings that are complementary to our software – for customers and prospective customers.
I will still be doing speaking engagements, teaching through the ThedaCare Center, etc. I have some existing client relationships to maintain, but I expect I will start to do more of my consulting through KaiNexus.
Allan Wilson, who I previously worked for at Factory Logic about 10 years ago, has been advising us for the past six months or so. He is coming on board as our CEO and Greg will become our Chief Product Officer. Allan was my guest for episode #22 of my podcast series back in 2007 and I'm glad that we kept in touch! He's been a great help and will continue to do so in a formal leadership role.
We have also hired our first full-time sales professional, Jeff Roussel!
I'm really happy to be part of the mission, the challenge, and the team!
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