11 Ways You Can Get Ideas to Flow From Staff


DukeMark's note: Today's guest post is by Duke Rohe of the Office of Performance Improvement at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. I've met Duke many times at the annual Society for Health Systems conference and he's always a pleasure to talk with. He shares quite a bit online through the online “Healthcare Management Engineers” email list and I got his permission to share these thoughts as this blog post… and I'll also be recording a podcast with him soon.

By Duke Rohe, BS, LFHIMSS

Your staff isn't short on ideas, just an environment to ready to receive them. To the manager who wants to engage her staff in change, put these in place and watch the ideas flow.

  1. Create a receptive environment for ideas – It starts with the manager then cascades to the staff. No one is above generating improvements and no one is without the ability to make improvement.
  2. Address every idea received with importance. It's important to its contributor. Take the time to help the contributor develop it or to realize it's not do-able.
  3. Create a system of consistent reception, feedback, nurturing, cost justifying, recognition, broadcasting, and deployment.
  4. Encourage, even fight for the little idea. Ideas are the life of change. It honors the person who generated it and it sends a message of value to all who are watching.
  5. Develop an expectation for idea generation. Try one a month per employee. Proclaim a war on waste. Every problem that arises is great material for an idea.
  6. Remove barriers that impede implementation. Get petty cash, outside assistance, approvals…whatever you can to make implementation a downhill slide.
  7. Keep the idea initiator apprised of idea status once it's submitted. Time and lack of communication work against the generation of future ideas.
  8. Require the initiator to evaluate the total cost, including other areas impacted, and to derive the time value or potential savings from the idea.
  9. Implement the idea (which turns it into an innovation) with clarity to all who encounter it. If possible, integrate needed instructions at the point of the innovation's use.
  10. Broadcast the knowledge of the innovation to all who need to know of its introduction. Brag on its initiator. Take a before and after picture. Get others to apply it in their area if appropriate.
  11. Sustain it. Catalogue your innovations to remind you where you've come from and to keep check to see if it is still enforced and useful.

What do you think of this list? Which do you and your organization do well? Which do you need to get better at or more consistent with? What else would you add to this list?

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Duke Rohe
Duke Rohe currently works at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center as a Quality Improvement Education Specialist. Mr. Rohe graduated from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering. He is a Life Fellow member of the Healthcare Information Systems Society and has achieved its Quality Management Award, Outstanding Fellows Service Award, and Chapter Leadership Award. He authored two chapters in the Management Engineering guidebook, co-authored a book on Quality Tools, has co-authored four books on organizational change and is on his mother's top ten list.


  1. Even the smallest ideas can have the largest impact. It’s important to always encourage a flow of ideas and suggestions to always keep things fresh and moving forward! Thanks for the advice!


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