Leveraging Lean & AI in Optometry: Ankit Patel’s Journey from Dell to Vision Care

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Ankit Patel

My guest for Episode #509 of the Lean Blog Interviews Podcast is Ankit Patel, the founder of My Business Care Team, a BPO company providing services for optometrists, and co-founder with his wife Classic Vision Care, an optometry group in Atlanta.

With a strong background in Lean methodology, Ankit has worked as a Lean consultant at Dell and the Cleveland Clinic, driving process improvements and coaching executives. 

He holds a Master's degree in Positive Organizational Development and a Bachelor's in Industrial Engineering. 

Recognizing talent acquisition challenges, Ankit partnered with a Filipino team to source skilled, cost-effective staff for various business functions. He now leverages AI for hiring and automation to optimize his optometry practice and BPO services, applying Lean principles to drive efficiency and growth.

In this episode, Ankit shares insights from his journey, starting as a lean consultant at Dell and the Cleveland Clinic, and transitioning into optometry, where he focuses on building patient relationships and enhancing processes through lean principles and AI technology.

Mark and Ankit discuss the challenges and opportunities of integrating AI in business processes, the importance of positive organizational development, and how appreciative inquiry can drive team alignment and engagement. Ankit also highlights the role of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) in managing small businesses and improving training and development with AI tools, offering valuable lessons for anyone interested in continuous improvement and innovative approaches in healthcare and beyond.

Questions, Notes, and Highlights:

  • What is positive organizational development, and how did you come to study it?
  • How did your experience at Cleveland Clinic influence your involvement in your current business?
  • How do you balance focusing on optometry with the potential to expand into other medical practices?
  • How do you prioritize where to use AI in your processes without falling into the trap of using it because it's trendy?
  • Can you share an example of improving a process before thinking about automating it with AI?
  • How rapidly is AI technology advancing, and how does that impact your ability to adjust its use in your business?
  • How do you see AI tools facilitating faster PDCA or PDSA cycles in continuous improvement practices?
  • What led you to the positive psychology approach, and how does it differ from traditional organizational development?
  • How do you apply appreciative inquiry in your work, and what impact does it have on team alignment and engagement?
  • Can you discuss the origin and growth of your new business involving AI and BPO for optometry?
  • What role does EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) play in managing your business?
  • How do you evaluate the effectiveness of training and development using AI tools?
  • How do you communicate your practice's focus on building patient relationships in your marketing and branding?

The podcast is brought to you by Stiles Associates, the premier executive search firm specializing in the placement of Lean Transformation executives. With a track record of success spanning over 30 years, it's been the trusted partner for the manufacturing, private equity, and healthcare sectors. Learn more.

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Exploring the Impact of Lean Methodologies in Diverse Industries

The adoption of lean methodologies has transformed operational efficiency and process improvement across various industries, from manufacturing to healthcare and business process optimization (BPO). By delving into the experiences and insights of professionals like Ankit Patel, founder of My Business Care Team and co-founder of Classic Vision Care, we can understand the profound influence lean principles have on enhancing productivity, fostering positive organizational development, and ensuring customer satisfaction.

The Foundations of Lean in Manufacturing

Lean methodologies, originating from the Toyota Production System, are designed to eliminate waste, simplify processes, and maximize value for the customer. Ankit Patel's journey with lean began at Dell, where he encountered lean's potential to radically increase productivity within manufacturing. The success of implementing a lean approach in Dell's remanufacturing facilities, leading to a doubling of productivity, showcases the power of lean's principles when applied thoughtfully and diligently. This experience not only highlights the importance of lean methodologies in manufacturing but also serves as a cornerstone for applying these principles across different sectors.

In manufacturing, lean's focus on value stream mapping, continuous improvement, and respecting the workforce produces results that are tangible and measurable. By analyzing processes, identifying bottlenecks, and continuously seeking improvements, companies can achieve significant enhancements in their operations. This groundwork prepares professionals to transfer and adapt these methodologies to new environments, demonstrating lean's versatility and broad applicability.

Transitioning Lean Principles to Healthcare

The healthcare industry, known for its complexity and the critical nature of its services, presents unique challenges for the implementation of lean methodologies. Ankit Patel's transition from manufacturing to healthcare, particularly his work with the Cleveland Clinic, illustrates the adaptability of lean concepts when addressing healthcare's intricate systems and processes. The focus shifts from maximizing product output to enhancing patient care quality and operational efficiency within a highly regulated environment.

Healthcare organizations face obstacles such as regulatory requirements, the need for high precision and safety, and the complexity of patient care processes. Implementing lean in this context emphasizes creating more value for patients by minimizing non-value-adding activities, improving process flow, and reducing wait times and errors. Through projects and collaborations, lean practitioners in healthcare work to instill a culture of continuous improvement, where every member of the organization is involved in identifying and solving problems. This approach underscores the significance of adaptably applying lean principles to improve patient outcomes and operational efficiency simultaneously.

Lean Methodologies in Business Process Optimization

Beyond manufacturing and healthcare, lean methodologies find robust application in the realm of business process optimization (BPO). Ankit Patel's establishment of My Business Care Team, a BPO company servicing optometrists, exemplifies how lean principles can streamline operations, enhance service delivery, and improve overall business performance. By focusing on value creation for the customer, businesses can identify and eliminate wasteful practices, optimize workflows, and deliver services more effectively and efficiently.

In the context of BPO, lean methodologies can significantly impact customer satisfaction, turnaround times, and operational costs. Companies that adopt lean thinking in their BPO strategies often experience increased agility, improved quality of services, and enhanced competitive advantage. This holistic approach to process improvement aligns closely with the goals of BPO by striving for excellence in service delivery through continuous improvement and employee engagement.

Conclusion

The journeys and successes of lean practitioners across various industries underscore the universal relevance and adaptability of lean methodologies. Whether in the fast-paced environment of manufacturing, the complex and high-stakes field of healthcare, or the efficiency-driven realm of BPO, the principles of lean offer a powerful framework for enhancing productivity, fostering innovation, and achieving operational excellence. Through a commitment to continuous improvement, customer value, and employee engagement, organizations across sectors can harness the transformative potential of lean methodologies to secure a sustainable competitive edge. Exploring the depths and pragmatics of applying Lean methodologies and AI technologies in the realms of healthcare, optometry, and business process optimization (BPO) not only reveals the complexity of such initiatives but also the potential for profound organizational improvements. Ankit Patel's journey underscores a significant shift from traditional process improvements to an innovative integration of artificial intelligence, offering insights into the future landscape of Lean practices.

Innovative Approaches to Staff Training using AI

One of the pivotal applications of AI within Lean methodologies is in the training and development of staff. The utilization of AI for creating tailored training modules and conducting assessments represents a leap forward in efficiency and effectiveness. By employing AI-driven assessments, businesses can now evaluate the depth of knowledge through open-ended questions, simulating human cognition and eliminating the need for manual grading. This approach not only streamlines the training process but also enhances the precision of identifying areas needing improvement, thereby fostering a culture of continuous learning and development.

Enhancing Customer Interactions through AI Analysis

The application of AI extends into analyzing customer interactions, providing a new layer of insights into service quality and customer satisfaction. By examining redacted transcripts of customer interactions, AI can objectively assess the quality of service, identify unresolved issues, and propose solutions. This analytical capability enables service providers to refine their communication strategies, tailor customer interactions, and ultimately elevate the customer experience. Such advancements underscore the evolving landscape of customer service, where AI's role becomes integral in ensuring excellence and consistency.

Leveraging AI for Autonomation and Continuous Improvement

The philosophy of autonomation (jidoka) finds new vitality with the integration of AI in operational processes. By bridging the gap between automation and human intervention, AI facilitates a seamless workflow, ensuring that automated processes enhance quality without sacrificing the human touch. This approach reflects a mature application of Lean's foundational concepts, where technology and human creativity converge to push the boundaries of efficiency and quality.

Future Directions: Expanding the Reach of AI in Lean Environments

Looking ahead, the potential for AI within the framework of Lean methodologies is vast. Beyond the immediate operational improvements, AI can contribute to strategic decision-making, predictive analytics, and personalized customer experiences. As Lean practitioners explore these frontiers, the emphasis remains on aligning technology with the core principles of Lean–creating value, eliminating waste, and continuously improving.

Businesses, regardless of size, can draw inspiration from Ankit Patel's experiences, recognizing that the integration of Lean and AI is not merely about adopting new tools but about fostering a culture of innovation, adaptability, and relentless pursuit of excellence. The journey of Lean and AI is an evolving narrative, promising to redefine the landscapes of industries and the essence of operational excellence.

Leveraging Large Language Models for Business and Training Optimization

With the advent of large language models (LLMs) like GPT-3, businesses have an unprecedented opportunity to harness AI for enhancing various facets of operation, from customer service to employee training. The interaction between AI technologies and Lean methodologies opens up innovative pathways for optimizing business processes, particularly in the context of Business Process Optimization (BPO). By integrating AI-driven solutions, businesses can overhaul traditional processes, making them more efficient and aligned with modern demands. This can be particularly beneficial in sectors like optometry, where customer inquiries about product statuses dominate the workload.

Streamlining Processes Before Automation

A crucial insight from the application of Lean methodologies in conjunction with AI is the importance of streamlining and refining processes before introducing automation. In contexts such as optometry offices, where common inquiries can lead to inefficiencies, the focus shifts towards setting clear expectations and cleaning up front-end processes. This approach not only reduces workload and improves customer satisfaction but also sets a solid foundation for integrating AI solutions. By ensuring that processes are lean and efficient, businesses can better leverage AI for tasks that enhance value without automating inherent process flaws.

AI's Role in Continuous Improvement and Decision Making

The potential of AI to contribute to strategic decision-making and continuous improvement within Lean methodologies is significant. Through predictive analytics, AI can offer insights that inform strategic decisions, making businesses more agile and responsive to changes. Furthermore, AI can play a crucial role in personalized customer experiences, tailoring services and interactions to meet individual customer needs more effectively. This fusion of Lean practices with AI not only augments operational efficiency but also opens up new avenues for business innovation and customer engagement.

Positive Organizational Development and AI Integration

Exploring the influence of positive organizational development (OD) in the context of AI and Lean methodologies offers a unique perspective on change management and improvement practices. By focusing on strengths and what works well within an organization, positive OD can complement Lean and AI initiatives, fostering an environment wherein rapid change and improvement are embraced more wholeheartedly. This approach can be particularly effective in settings that are conducive to rapid cycles of innovation and improvement, such as startups or dynamic industry sectors.

Harnessing AI for Enhanced Communication and Learning

In the realm of communication, both within teams and with customers, AI has the potential to significantly bolster efficiency and effectiveness. Large language models can aid in refining communication strategies, enhancing the clarity and impact of messaging. Moreover, in the context of staff training, AI can assist in creating dynamic and responsive learning environments. Through AI-driven assessments and feedback mechanisms, employees can engage in continuous learning, closely aligned with organizational goals and performance metrics.

The Future of Lean, AI, and Organizational Excellence

As businesses continue to navigate the integration of Lean methodologies and AI, the journey of Ankit Patel and others in this domain offers valuable insights and inspirations. The ongoing evolution of AI technologies, combined with a steadfast commitment to the principles of Lean, heralds a future where operational excellence is continuously redefined. Embracing a culture of innovation and adaptability is essential for businesses aiming to thrive in this new landscape, where the synergies between human creativity and technological advancements drive unprecedented levels of organizational performance and customer satisfaction.

Enabling Change and Innovation through Positive Emotional Engagement

The insights shared by Ankit Patel illuminate a transformative approach to fostering change and driving innovation within organizations. Engaging team members by evoking positive emotions and excitement about future successes reveals a potent strategy in the realm of organizational development. By sharing stories and envisioning future accomplishments, employees can experience a renewed connection to their work and the organization's goals. This method underscores the importance of emotional investment in the process of change, an aspect that, when coupled with AI and Lean methodologies, can significantly amplify outcomes.

Co-Creating the Future with Visionary Alignment

The practice of posing future-based questions to employees, as Patel mentions, not only generates energy and drive for change but also facilitates a collaborative environment. This strategy is crucial for achieving alignment and agreement among team members. By co-creating a shared vision, an organization ensures that its goals resonate deeply with its employees, thereby fostering a united effort towards innovation and improvement. Such a collaborative approach can bridge gaps between current practices and the envisioned future, making the integration of new technologies and methodologies smoother and more effective.

The Power of Positive Organizational Development in AI Integration

Delving deeper into positive organizational development (POD) in conjunction with the adoption of AI technologies presents a unique avenue for enhancing change management. POD focuses on leveraging the strengths within an organization and building upon what works well. When applied in settings that are increasingly reliant on AI and Lean processes, POD can create a conducive environment for rapid adaptation and innovation. Moreover, focusing on positive aspects can help mitigate resistance to change, making the integration of AI a more welcome development within the organization.

Psychological Aspects of Organizational Change

Understanding the psychology of change is paramount for organizations navigating the complexities of integrating AI and Lean methodologies. Human behavior and attitudes towards change play critical roles in determining the success of organizational transformation efforts. By exploring the psychological underpinnings of change resistance and engagement, organizations can develop more effective strategies for encouraging adaptation and innovation. Emphasizing the human element in technological adoption ensures that change initiatives are not only technically sound but also emotionally resonant.

Building Capacity for Continuous Improvement

To truly harness the potential of AI and Lean methodologies, organizations must focus on building capacity for continuous improvement. This requires creating a culture that values learning, adaptability, and innovation. Through AI-driven insights and the principles of Lean, businesses can identify areas for enhancement, streamline processes, and optimize performance. However, the cornerstone of success in these efforts lies in the organization's ability to engage and motivate its team members, fostering a collaborative and innovative culture that thrives on change and continuous improvement.

By weaving together the elements of positive organizational development, emotional engagement, and the strategic use of AI and Lean methodologies, businesses can embark on a journey of transformation that is both technologically advanced and deeply human-centric.


Automated Transcript (Not Guaranteed to be Defect Free)

Mark Graban:
Well, hi. Welcome back to the podcast. I'm Mark Graban. I'm happy to be joined today by our guest Ankit Patel. He is the founder of my business care team, a BPO company or business process optimization company that provides services for optometrists.

Mark Graban:
He is also co founder with his wife of Classic Vision care, Classic Vision Care, an optometry group in Atlanta. Ankit has a strong background in lean methodologies. That's how we've met and known each other for quite a while now. He's worked as a lean consultant at Dell and at the Cleveland Clinic, driving process improvements and also coaching executives. He has a master's degree in positive organizational development and a bachelor's in industrial engineering.

Mark Graban:
So we've got some overlap here, both bachelor's and ie, both some time working at Dell. We're going to talk about positive psychology and positive organizational development in the episode. So, Ankit, let me just welcome you to the podcast. I was going to read a little bit more about the company, but I think we'll get to that part of the conversation. So thanks.

Mark Graban:
Thanks for joining us. How are you doing today?

Ankit Patel:
Yeah, thanks. Thanks for having me, Mark. Really appreciate it. And I'm doing well today. So, yeah, I can't complain.

Ankit Patel:
It's a nice day here, so.

Mark Graban:
Yeah. And here is in the Atlanta area, right?

Ankit Patel:
It is, yes. Suburbs of Atlanta.

Mark Graban:
Yeah. I was trying to rack my brain. I'm going to put you on the spot and I'm trying to think before we get to your lean origin story, I'm trying to think back to the origin story of how you and I met. I know it goes back at least to 2009. In relatively early days of my blog, you wrote guest posts in 2000, 920, 1020, twelve.

Mark Graban:
I was surprised to learn or remember that you had not been here on the podcast. But do you remember how and where we crossed paths? Were you reading the blog? Was that it?

Ankit Patel:
I do. It was. I don't remember exactly how I found you, but I remember connecting, I believe on Twitter or I reached out directly to you at some point, but I remember connecting and we just maintained a relationship since that point. At the time, I think I had, I was doing consulting work as well in that timeframe. And so you were gracious enough to have me write some help, write articles on the site.

Ankit Patel:
Yeah, that's, I believe that's how we met. I can't remember the exact conversation, but I remember being like, oh, wow, that's a really cool book you have around lean healthcare at the time. And so that's what got me interested in connecting with you.

Mark Graban:
Yeah, well, I'm glad we did. We have a lot of, like I said, not just shared background, but shared interest. So we're going to get to explore that here today. And I'll apologize again for not having invited you to the podcast a while back. But.

Mark Graban:
So, ankit, I know, even if our recollections are fuzzy of exactly how and when we started talking, I know you do have a clear recollection of your own lean origin story. So, as I tend to do with guest, I'm gonna throw that question to you. Tell us some of that origin story for you and what some of the context or even what the terminology was.

Ankit Patel:
Yeah, so it was interesting. Cause I started my career at Della doing manufacturing engineering. So project managing, figuring out solutions, usually machine type solutions, implementing them every year at Dell, and I think my fifth year, fourth or fifth year there, we had a project, they were consolidating facilities, and they were moving one of the remanufacturing facilities from Austin, Texas to Nashville, which is where I was based. And I was part of the engineering team that did that. And I think there are some things going on in the background.

Ankit Patel:
I wasn't really sure about the political picture of what was going on, but our engineering team, we did a whole traditional design. We had something in place, and, you know, we had predicted at the time, I think we're going to get about a ten, maybe 15% productivity boost. And that was, we were excited about that. You know, we were saying, get us a budget, get us going, and we'll put in all this machinery, and we'd be rocking and rolling, and then somehow, somewhere, someone came in, I want to say, I think it was Dick Hunter at the time, and said, no, we're going to try this whole lean thing. And so there was a couple of people that came in on board, and I believe they use the Danaher system, which is a derivative of the Toyota production.

Ankit Patel:
I can't remember the exact history or lineage there, but it's very similar to Toyota production system. And so we went through and we did a whole different line design based off of lean, lean principles. And it was a really cool project to be on because we saw it go from basically a brownfield project back to a greenfield project, completely redesign it from scratch, the methodology to use that, and then rebuilt it and saw it implemented in real life. To give you some context, it was a very heavy, machinery based solution. A lot of conveyor stuff that wasn't movable.

Ankit Patel:
We use this product I think it was called creform, but it's basically an adult or a connector set. Everything was portable, modular, and we ended up doubling productivity. Not just a ten or 20% increase, it was actually double the productivity when we actually rolled it out. I think those were the exact numbers. So that's.

Ankit Patel:
That's what got me hooked. And what I loved about it was the. The process and the buy in and the methodologies we used to get there is very logical, very rational, is very creative. And it was. It was.

Ankit Patel:
It was not necessarily exactly consensus, but everyone was involved in the process.

Mark Graban:
Yeah.

Ankit Patel:
And so it was very much like, oh, everyone's bought into it. We get this, there's a lot of energy around it, and. Which was exciting. Fast forward a little bit from there. That's where I got started.

Ankit Patel:
And then from there, my interest grew into some consulting work working in healthcare at the Cleveland clinic. And now, honestly, that framing of how to look at processes has never really left me. And I took that with me to optometry, where we try to focus on what is valuable for our patient base. And that's different than what may be valuable to a manufacturing customer. So that's been a fun journey to kind of work through.

Mark Graban:
Yeah, but as a dedicated glasses wearer, I wouldn't get anywhere without my glasses, so I value optometry very much and ophthalmology when it's needed. But let's go back to talk about your time at Dell. So, like, more specifically, it's funny, you know, the overlap that we had, not it. Not in the exact same years, but Dell computer was my first job coming out of the graduate program at MIT, so I joined 1999 in Austin. You joined what year?

Ankit Patel:

  1. Mark Graban:
    Yeah, yeah. So five year difference and the clock speed, if you will, of that industry and the pace of change was incredibly fast. And I reported up through Dick Hunter at one point, and then I think he rose. He did become, I think, the top manufacturing executive, if not for Dell, America's Dell worldwide. I mean, he was one of the executive head honchos, right?

Ankit Patel:
Yeah, I think after our project, he got promoted to worldwide from just americas.

Mark Graban:
Yeah, yeah, so there's, there's. Yeah, we both worked for DeC and then when I was there, and we'll come back and talk about, you know, some of that embrace of lean. You know, when I was working there and having roots on the automotive industry, the word lean means certain things to me here on Toyota production system or what General Motors was trying to do. And a lot of people in the media, mainly or analysts, I think, sort of conflated and confused. They would use the word lean to describe Dell and say, well, Dell has low inventory, they have high inventory turns, and like, well, I don't know if it's really a lean supply chain because it was forecast based and long lead times, and then just that very last replenishment loop was essentially a real time pull system.

Mark Graban:
But then beyond that, and not asking you to wade into things you wouldn't want to discuss, but to me, there was a difference in culture where I wouldn't have described it as a Toyota ish culture. Dell had its own culture. There were times where I felt like the emphasis was a little bit too much on quantity over quality. I won't belabor that point. But then it's good to see at some point to come around to the lean approach.

Mark Graban:
Danaher business system, which I think was really influenced by Shingijutsu, which is former Toyota people. So there is kind of a family tree there, but interesting to see that they would embrace not just some of that language, but some of the industrial engineering elements of lean for line design.

Ankit Patel:
Yeah, yeah, it was. It was really interesting to see that shift. And I think there's some. There's some elements that made it easier culturally to absorb, because the one thing that we did focus in on heavily was culture. You know, the book creating a lean culture by David Mann, that was sort of the Bible.

Ankit Patel:
What we used that we created, the boards, the measurement system, creating all the stuff in there was drawn from that, too. So I think that was one of the main reasons for success, to be honest for that, is because the culture took such a big precedence in how do we train the new staff? Because we're starting over from clean slate almost. Right. Because no one's really seen lean or had an impression of lean in the facility.

Ankit Patel:
So, yeah, it was a great opportunity for. For us to be a part of.

Mark Graban:
Yeah. And I'm sure working with frontline supervisors, managers, really supporting the front line. I don't think Dell ever used the term team members. I'm going to use the Toyota term team members. The frontline employees.

Ankit Patel:
Right. Yeah. That was a lot of fun, I'm not going to lie. That was. That was a good time, coming up with a design and just being.

Ankit Patel:
Having that team environment, the camaraderie. It was fun. I enjoyed that environment.

Mark Graban:
Yeah. Yeah. And there was a lot of that camaraderie of projects and work I got to do there and people who are lifelong friends. So to be continued over a beverage sometime on that but then our shared interest, then, of course, in healthcare. I would love to hear more about your transition into Cleveland clinic and the things that you were learning and seeing and doing going into such a different environment.

Ankit Patel:
Casey. So it was interesting because I got approached by a recruiter saying, hey, we have a job in the Cleveland clinic. Would you be interested? I was like, well, yes, that would be. That sounds like a good opportunity to go check out.

Ankit Patel:
And relatively still early, my lean journey, a couple years removed from Della, I decided to take the job. And it was really interesting to see how healthcare approached it and how different companies approached it. So I think there are different models of deploying lean, and some people are much more project based and hierarchical. Some people are more ground up, grassroots, more team based. And I think that they both have their pros and cons.

Ankit Patel:
Healthcare, because of the nature of it, it's hard to just shut down a facility, right, and just focus on one thing at a time. So by the nature of the work, it ends up being more project based. More, more, hey, we need to get people in the room for a short amount of time, make decisions, and then go out and do a project to try to implement this. And so it was interesting seeing that the culture is obviously different. Right.

Ankit Patel:
Speed of change is much, much slower in healthcare. I remember there's a dress code tie in suit of every day. So, you know, there was a whole rightfully so, right. You don't want to make. You don't want to be break, you know, move fast and break things in healthcare because you think people die.

Ankit Patel:
So it's not like software and other places where. Where you want to move fast. So I really enjoy the challenges, and it was also way more complex in terms of either self induced or just the nature of healthcare is just more complex. And so, yeah, you know, you've talked about it before, and actually, I remember consulting you on a challenge that I was having. I was like, I've got this one department, but they route to 20 different apartments, and sometimes they come back, sometimes they don't.

Ankit Patel:
And I remember you giving guidance on saying, like, look, just focus on the path that has the most volume, and you're going to optimize some of the other stuff, too. It's going to be better than we were before. I was like, that's really. That's really helpful to understand, because before it was like, okay, it was all encompassing. We were able to control the entire scope in one project.

Ankit Patel:
And in healthcare, it was hard to do that. And so kind of getting over some of those challenges was. Was important. Some of the learnings that I had with that. Yeah, yeah.

Mark Graban:
So things in healthcare, and this is, yeah. Not just a Cleveland clinic point. It doesn't move at what they call Dell speed in that environment. But, you know, but that said, you know, there's such opportunities to help establish standardized process. You know, without that, things are moving fast and people maybe are being harmed along the way, you know, so the, you know, the starting point is, you know, it's so critically important to try to, you know, create stability, which is something people so often talk about in lean, you know, first create stability.

Mark Graban:
But, yeah, I'm thinking of, you know, back to, you know, people we probably know in common. Previous guests on this podcast, if you were reporting up through or working with, like, doctor Lisa Yarian, who's been on the podcast, and Nate Hurl, who unfortunately passed away a couple of years ago. We've heard a lot about the Cleveland clinic approach here on the podcast.

Ankit Patel:
Nate was my former boss at Cleveland Clinic, so that was tough. Yeah, yeah. Sad to see hear about that. But, yeah, doctor Lisa, I did work with her a little bit. Not on our project, per se, but she was in the ecosphere, so we got to spend some time with them.

Ankit Patel:
My time at Cleveland clinic was relatively short, so they probably don't remember me if I was there. I was there for about a year or so before getting married and life changes happen.

Mark Graban:
Yeah.

Ankit Patel:
But it was, it was. It was a really valuable experience. Learned a lot, and it was really neat to see that world.

Mark Graban:
Yeah, yeah. So go ahead.

Ankit Patel:
I was going to say, you know, most. A lot of my project were actually at the Heart Valve institute, which was that. That was just incredible. That was just really neat to see that experience of really, like, world class, you know, heart surgeons and how they think about. And she's like, brilliant minds and just the way they work together was just really.

Ankit Patel:
That was a lot of fun.

Mark Graban:
Yeah. Well, and there's so much opportunity to provide better support systems for those brilliant minds, brilliant hands and fingers, because, you know, there are a lot of frustrations when things don't run smoothly, both for surgeons and the patients. Usually those frustrations are pretty aligned.

Ankit Patel:
Yeah. When it rains, it pours. Right. So. Because I think it's part of the nature, the complexity of it, too.

Ankit Patel:
Right. So there's a lot of points for error to happen. And so, you know, over time, I think it gets better and people work on it, but, yeah, it's really hard to, you had said it, stabilize the process, make sure everything is consistent, running and then, you know, how do you deal with people? Well, if I change anything, it might hurt patient care. And so there's a whole psychology around that, too.

Ankit Patel:
So it's really, really. There's some interesting variables involved on the healthcare side.

Mark Graban:
Yeah. And then did that experience. You talk about life changes and you married an optometrist. And did the time in Cleveland Clinic give you more confidence about, you know, getting involved now in, in that business? You know, it's a smaller business than Cleveland clinic, but be curious to kind of hear about some of that transition and thinking about applying this in, in a practice.

Ankit Patel:
So I think being entrepreneurial or being in a smaller setting like that is very different than a large company. I've always kind of had that entrepreneurial bug, so it wasn't, I enjoyed that type of challenge, and there were some, some overlap in terms of, we looked at what was valuable to our patients and my wife, so we designed the whole process around what my wife wanted. Like, what kind of practice does she want to run? She wanted one that build relationships with patients. And so to do that, we had, we decided, okay, you need slightly longer exam time.

Ankit Patel:
So we started off with doing 1 hour exams for her, which is unheard of in the industry, but we knew that in optometry, you've got options. Right? So you can sell products, you can sell contacts, glasses. In addition to that, you can also do other services, like specialty services. So we wanted to specialize in that.

Ankit Patel:
And so the type of patient that really values, that values the extra time in the doctor chair. And I know, and actually, I learned what not to do from this situation because I know there were people trying, experimenting with optometry and lean at the time, but they were just focused on throughput. Like, how do you get more people through the door? And I was like, we're going to take the exact opposite and say this patient base likes time with the doctor, so we're going to figure out how to make that work well.

Mark Graban:
So that's maximizing value as opposed to trying to minimize waste.

Ankit Patel:
Exactly.

Mark Graban:
You could also be taking waste out of a process that is relationship building. Right. More focus on added time.

Ankit Patel:
I would say if we had a high volume, low margin, low cost, leader type practice, I think that would be the way to go. That's the type of patients don't necessarily care as much about the time with the doctor, but that's not the direction we decided to go.

Mark Graban:
And so that I imagine there were opportunities to. When I think of entrepreneurship and continuous improvement, I think of PDCA or PDSA cycles. I mean, I imagine you early on were testing some of that hypothesis and realizing, okay, this is working with some opportunities for refinement, or it's just a matter of kind of choosing the model and executing it well.

Ankit Patel:
So there's obviously refinement. So what we found was that without getting too much into the business side, I'd be happy to dig in further if you're interested. But there's the economics of where you see all your ratios. So, like your cogs, your cost of goods relative to the volume and the product offerings relative to the insurance, because there's insurance as part of the equation, they only cap, usually cap what you can do. So we actually had to do a skew simplification, saying, we're not going to offer all this stuff.

Ankit Patel:
It's not available here, period. And so we know that these, what we put here is the right thing for the patient and the right thing for the business, too, because the business can stay alive and the patients will get a really good product at a fair price. So it was like kind of like a dealership model, right. We weren't a low end dealership and we were more like a, like a Lexus dealership. Right.

Ankit Patel:
And so it was, it was a nice, you get nicer products, nicer stuff. At the same time, you know, you can trust what we see. It may cost more than, say, someone like a Walmart, but it's definitely a different appreciable difference in the exam and the materials and the quality, the lenses.

Mark Graban:
Yeah. And then how is that communicated in terms of marketing and brand image? To help people understand that this is a certain approach to optometry and vision.

Ankit Patel:
Care, it's very applicable to a lower scale. What I will say is it did not look like what I thought it would look like. You know, being a lean consultant in other roles, you know, I was teaching, not doing. When I'm actually in the weeds, it's a little different. I will say this, and I know this may be heresy to some folks, but it's who first, then what second?

Ankit Patel:
With especially a small business, one bad hire can make a big difference. And so the who, focusing on that person is really important. More importantly, that person should match well with you as a leader. That's one of the biggest lessons I've learned. I've got to learn my strengths and my weaknesses leader, and I can't pick someone that I am not going to be good at managing.

Ankit Patel:
Perfect example is I'm much more of an introvert. While I can do things have conversations, the pat on the backs, it's not natural for me. And there are some folks who, again, for me, it's not a strength. So I am a very poor manager for them. And so in those situations, those are not necessarily good fits.

Ankit Patel:
They may look great on paper, but they're not great for our working environment because we're such a small team, 14 people, right, or so. And so once you kind of understand that we actually use EOS or traction in our companies, which is fantastic for smaller companies, and there's a big part of the accountability chart that they have, which is clear lines, delegation, your standard of work, right. Define the process. It's all there. And the best part about that is you have to take ownership of your numbers.

Ankit Patel:
And so you're expected to come in with ideas. If you don't know those ideas, we find you a ways to solve the problem, but we do it together. And so it's the closest thing to a lean operating system that I've seen for a smaller company.

Mark Graban:
It works really well because EOS is entrepreneurial operating system. I think I read that book traction a long time ago. A friend of mine has worked as an EOS consultant and she recommended the book. And there I wrote a blog post once. You kind of cross walk.

Mark Graban:
Yeah, there are a lot of similarities, but like you said, you know, an entrepreneurial setting, whether it's, you know, Kynexis is a software company or you do that is, I think, general common startup advice of the who really does matter, you know, quite, quite a bit. And avoiding a quote unquote bad hire. And that, like you said, could mean bad Fitzhen not bad person. But it seems like in a smaller environment, there would be opportunities to try to hear everybody's ideas and engage people in improvement. That could be one of the factors you try to hire for without the bureaucracy that a large corporate setting might put in your way.

Ankit Patel:
Yeah. One thing I'll say is if you are going out on your own entrepreneurial, uh, this is where some of the psychology and knowing running a business has come in. Um, past success, it tends to determine future success. Tends to. So you want to look for types of things that they've done in the past.

Ankit Patel:
So if you look at the work history or their extracurricular activity, and they've never been a leader, they've never really had a problem solve. Chances are, and again, this may not be ideal, but you don't really, I don't really want their opinion on stuff because they've never done it before in the past. I can teach them how to think about it and learn about them, but they're, you know, you kind of scale their opinions and thoughts on things. They're not an expert in the process. They're not an expert in problem solving.

Ankit Patel:
Right. At least they haven't demonstrated it yet. And so you want to be careful about taking those, because so many times I've taken those ideas and ran with them, and it just caused more harm and more just set us back a little bit. And so that, that was some of the biggest learnings I've had in the first few years of having the businesses. It really matters how you take in advice and who's ready and what level are they ready for.

Ankit Patel:
You can consult them, you can inform them, or you can hold them accountable and responsible for it. Right. The whole racy piece. But knowing who you just inform and consult versus who you actually put responsible for coming with ideas, there's a big gap there. And I didn't realize that when I first started.

Mark Graban:
But the PDSA cycles continue learning and moving forward. So the other main thing we wanted to talk about next begin moving forward and entrepreneurship is the new business involving AI and BPO. And there's sort of an origin story there of how you kind of found this need and this opportunity. Right?

Ankit Patel:
Yeah. So we had five locations back in, or four or five, I forget exactly how many we had, but we had five at one point in 2019. And it was really hard to get enough people even before COVID to get enough people consistently train spread out over five locations in Atlanta. And so we had to figure out a way to do that. So we decided to centralize some of the functions so we would have consistent processes, consistent output for phone answering specifically, and things like back office tasks like billing, filing insurance.

Ankit Patel:
And what ended up happening was we ended up getting some support from we globally resource some folks, so people from outside of our four walls, outside of the country in some cases, helping us support those functions. And as Covid hit and people left, we started augmenting with more folks who were outside of the area because that's the only people that were available to work. And so it ended up growing. And fast forward to 2021. 2022.

Ankit Patel:
Late late 2021. Early 22, we started doing a friends and family, helping them out, doing something similar. And then fast forward to 23, we launched my business care team, which is specifically optometry specific. What we say is that anything you can do remotely, we can help you with. And now this year, we've been heavily focused on technology.

Ankit Patel:
With the advent of AI artificial intelligence with chat, GPT and all the other ones out there, it's really making a difference in terms of things that we can do and implement and really provide more value and more better care for patients at the same time helping doctors run their business better.

Mark Graban:
And I mean, imagine there's a benefit in finding customers and communicating. Okay, we have this focus on optometry. I mean, they're not trying to push you in other directions, but like, there's probably this balance of thinking through focusing on optometry versus thinking more broadly for any type of medical practice, you know, dentists or et cetera.

Ankit Patel:
Yeah. So what we can, we can do it for anyone, right? Anyone that has any kind of remote work. Multi location retail is really our ideal type of person because we can centralize a lot of their functionality that they have. Um, we, we do optometry, uh, because it's more from a business strategy standpoint, you know, go deep in one market that you know really well.

Ankit Patel:
I know the exact problems that every one of these people face because I've already been there. Um, and so it's much easier to penetrate that market, um, than it get deep there and be being an expert there. Um, but we could easily go to other markets and that, you know, at some point that would probably be the plan. Um, but since we do understand the problems, we also have our own test bed, right? We have our own locations still.

Ankit Patel:
We have two locations now we actually consolidated down, and so we're constantly testing different things in our office first before we roll it out to our client base. So we have a lot of different cutting edge type things that we're doing around training, development, around patient experience, and around automation. I guess technically it's autonomation, right? Jidoka? I think that's right.

Mark Graban:
Autonomy.

Ankit Patel:
Yeah, it's basically like how to use the machines to help with automation and make sure it flows well versus automation for the automation sake. And so we're trying to leverage AI to do a lot of those pieces that quite frankly, as a small business, were too expensive to do before.

Mark Graban:
So from your background with lean and thinking of processes, and how do you decide where to use AI with a lean lens instead of using AI because it's cool or fun or trendy, or trying to use the proverbial AI hammerhead and everything looks like a nail. How do you prioritize or identify what would be the right places to use AI?

Ankit Patel:
Same like you do with lean. Start with the need, right? Where is there a need? So the number one complaint is staffing and the staff that you do have, how do you train them? And so right now, we're using AI specifically around training and development of staff.

Ankit Patel:
So opticians are the people that sell the glasses, and there's a whole process around that. We've created a, well, we're creating like a six week modules and training for them. But the training, the assessments actually take into consideration. Do you have deep knowledge? So AI is almost like human cognition, so you don't have to ask multiple choice.

Ankit Patel:
You can ask open ended questions now, and they can score it very accurately, and you can know if someone actually knows it or not. And so that's an area that's really helpful, because now we don't need someone grading these assessments, and we know if they have a deep understanding and knowledge of what we're trying to test and ask them to. Another area is around recordings. So we actually do practice sessions, and they do recordings of it, and they upload it, and the AI breaks it down to different categories, different scores, and gives them what they could have said differently without having to have that person in there doing that. That's a great way to, again, a 50% solution, 100% implemented.

Ankit Patel:
It's not perfect, but it's way better than what we were doing before. And just the fact of auditing and submitting recordings daily has improved. We rolled this out like four weeks ago. We've improved by 20% in terms of our financial numbers. And our patients are happy because our ratings still keep going up in our feedback.

Ankit Patel:
So what we're doing, it seems to be working. We're also using it in our. So we answer phones for a lot of clients. We've actually done it for our quality pieces. So we take a redacted transcripts, HIPAA compliant ones, analyze them for different scores and different outputs, and it tells us, hey, was a problem solved?

Ankit Patel:
Was it not solved? What was the quality rating? Was the disposition, what could have done better? And it gives them a coaching sheet based off of trends it's seeing. So those are all pain points that we had, because how do we get better quality?

Ankit Patel:
How do we better training? And so we've just started there. The next things we're looking at are, how do we get people, how do we get phone agents, virtual phone agents, overnight, so we can always service the patients chat bots that can make appointments. Right, doing all that. So how can we be almost like a.

Ankit Patel:
Even when we're not available, we're still available.

Mark Graban:
Yeah. And this involves custom software development on top of one of the large language model AI platforms have such a specialized application, is that right?

Ankit Patel:
Well, you just need API access. And most of the stuff we built in Zapier or we hired someone off of fiverr and said, here's the requirements and you have to have a little bit of idea how to do software. I don't have much, but I have a little bit. So I give general guidance. And again, it's 50% solution, 100% implemented.

Ankit Patel:
Is it a robust solution? That's perfect? No, but it's definitely better than where we were, and it's giving us progress. Some of the solutions you can do off of Zapier and with OpenAI like API access, some of them you can build on your own. But all the large language models for the most part are designed to be call a function calling.

Ankit Patel:
So you call their API, you pass it some information, it gives you information back. So it's a pretty clean handshake.

Mark Graban:
And then as you're working with people, there's probably this lean habit that's ingrained around not trying to automate a bad process. So as the BPO business process in the BPO is so important, can you share an example of either improving the process first or even establishing process before thinking about automation or AI?

Ankit Patel:
Yeah, the best example is many times when we talk to optometry offices, one of the most common calls they get is, hey, where's my product that I ordered? My glasses, you know, um, and I was like, well, we can take care of those problems for you. We can call the lab, figure out the status, do whatever we need to. However, it's probably best if you set expectations up front and make sure your processes are clean up front. So you're sending the products out fast enough, you're following up on the jobs and is prioritized.

Ankit Patel:
So most of the times what ends up happening is that the jobs aren't put in that same day. They wait a couple of days before they ship them out. There's two day shipping, then they get to the lab. There might be a breakage, which happens, you know, not often, but often enough would cause issues. Two days shipping back and then by that point it's already like almost three weeks when the expectation was two.

Ankit Patel:
But the patient may not even know it was two weeks because you didn't communicate that upfront either. So that's a perfect example of how we'll actually go in and process consult for them. Like, hey, this is a best practice that we have. And then we'll get our on the back end, we'll call your labs for you to figure out where their jobs are, kind of make sure they expedite the ones that, or coming closer to do and kind of manage that for you. But you got to have it tight on the front end from a communication standpoint and from an expectation standpoint and process.

Mark Graban:
Yeah. And would you say, I mean, is the AI technology advancing really fast, or is your ability to work with it and adjust the use of AI? Those are probably both moving forward, or what's the potential there? Do you need radically better technology at this point, or is it a matter of harnessing the technologies that are there now?

Ankit Patel:
It depends on the use case, depending on how much cognition a task needs. So to replace a human being, it's technically, well, by the time this is released. I may be wrong, but some of the more complex stuff is not quite there yet, although they just released a new model, quad three, which is supposed to be really, really good. So I don't know. I'll play with it and see.

Ankit Patel:
But it works really well for most use cases, especially like I'll call mid level complexity work. Now, is it going to come up with a five year strategy and market, you know, studies and all that? Not yet, but, you know, it's definitely, quite honestly, I think most, at least in our offices, most things could be assisted or replaced with, with that level of cognition. It's not really cognition. It's not the right word, but I'll use that for people's.

Mark Graban:
It appears to be. It seems like cognition. So it sounds like there's opportunities, maybe even more broadly, because we talked previously and what we're talking about here today, like this idea of evaluating and people's training and their progress, it seems like an opportunity to have faster PDCA, PDSA cycles that that could be applied to continuous improvement practices and development of people's ability to do Kaizen or a three s. I'm just thinking out loud here, like the AI tool, evaluate if someone's problem statement is good or if it's jumping to a solution. Can things like that be evaluated that way?

Ankit Patel:
That's actually a perfect use case for it. You can actually. Now where you have to have the expertise is to understand the rubric, to score against, to give appropriate feedback. But once you come up with that, just upload a PDF picture of, or just a picture of the a three and it'll spit back the feedback, and it's. That's a perfect use case for it.

Ankit Patel:
Another use case is the more complex. So the less deterministic a task, the more variability, the more different options that are so more like in the service industry, anytime you have that, that's a great use for it to get feedback on like what we use for our, when people want to buy glasses, there's so many different variables that go into it and it's hard to know exactly where. So we have some critical factors, but we want to make sure the staff keeps, is reminded of all those critical factors. So it's really a tool for learning more so than feedback, because if ideally the feedback is part of the learning cycle. But we've noticed that people are like, they're like, I want to get 100% on this.

Ankit Patel:
How do I get it? And so they'll constantly just go one thing at a time, like, let me work on this, let me work on this. We finally have a couple of people that actually, they start off like 20% and now they're regularly hitting the 100% mark on the evaluations.

Mark Graban:
Yeah, I don't have an AI podcast host buddy evaluator that afterwards is going to say, you know what? You could have asked that question more efficiently. You missed an opportunity to ask a follow up clarifying question. Maybe that's going to happen someday. But I'll tell you, within the last year, there are some AI tools to help support me as a podcaster.

Mark Graban:
The transcripts for episodes are better, much better than a previous automated tool that I was using, which they called AI, but it never learned how to spell my last name correctly. So I don't know how much machine learning.

Ankit Patel:
Yeah.

Mark Graban:
What's happening, you know, but, and, you know, these, these tools will, you know, it doesn't know what the best title for an episode was, but it'll give you a list of 15, like, oh, okay, that's, you know, you, you might piece two of them together to come up with. Here's, I think, a good episode for the title. You know, there are some things like that that are both a time saver and a money saver compared to some services that I was using before. New functionality. And in some cases, it's actually both better and cheaper.

Ankit Patel:
Yeah. And the more, the more comp you can actually do complex flows. So if you're trying to figure out a title. So by the way, AI will currently do what you're saying, it just won't do it great. If you dump the transcript in post after the fact, you can do it live too.

Ankit Patel:
It's just more tricky. But it'll tell you like, hey, you could have asked this, potentially asked this with mixed results. It's not, you know, is it as good as you? No, I don't think so. But maybe sometimes it'll be good.

Ankit Patel:
But as far as the more complex tools, so you can layer on AI, doing different parts and tie them together. So one part might be, let's. I want to do a study in terms of what keywords are really resonating well with the audience. So there's a way to do an analysis there. If you know how to do that, you can create some automation there and then say, okay, now we know the words.

Ankit Patel:
Compare that against what might be a good topic for this based off the entire transcript, and then figure out 510 titles that would rank well from SEO perspective or whatever. And you can do that. And that's where it's kind of going. All the basic functionality, like just putting stuff in, rewriting things. Those are things that are good.

Ankit Patel:
But the real magic happens when you go multi step.

Mark Graban:
Multi step. What does that mean?

Ankit Patel:
So like we just said, right? So, like, with the training protocol, it's one step is I have to figure out what good looks like and create that. So I have that knowledge from, from, from lean and other background. I take that knowledge. That's one step.

Ankit Patel:
And then I put in, in creating a rubric and test the rubric that step two and step three is deploying it and then doing is a PDC, PD SaPDcA cycle on, refining that, making sure, like, oh, is the output where I want it to be, yes or no? No. Okay, let's go back and try that again. Is it where I want to be, yes or no? And doing that over and over again.

Mark Graban:
Okay.

Ankit Patel:
Um, yeah, it, will it tell you, like, if you don't understand training theory, will it give you a good starting point? Yes, but it'll take a lot longer to get through those cycles to get to where you want to be.

Mark Graban:
Yeah. All right. Um, well, maybe one other topic we can cover a little bit here is, you know, your master's degree is in positive organizational development. That's, that's not something I've, I've really heard about before. I have heard the phrase positive psychology, and I barely will say, I don't know anything about that.

Mark Graban:
I've heard the term. So I'd be curious, what is meant by positive organizational development? How did you find that as a field to study and get your degree? What appealed to you and what's different about it?

Ankit Patel:
Yeah. So a positive organization, positive OD or positive psychology is very similar. It's building off of strengths. So traditional, you know. What do you think about traditional OD and traditional problem solving.

Ankit Patel:
Right. It's a. It's not necessarily negative per se, but it's. It's. It's very break, fix, focus.

Ankit Patel:
It's very much mechanistic. It's very much like, hey, what's the problem? How do we fix it? Positive psychology says the opposite. What's working well, and how do we build and broaden off of that?

Ankit Patel:
So it's a completely different way of looking at the same thing. So if you have a 90% satisfaction rate with your. With your customers, traditional problem solving, traditional OD, whatever it says, look at the 10% that are wrong versus this way says, why do 90% of us like us? And what can we do to do more of that? Yeah.

Ankit Patel:
Even if it's like the opposite, if it's 10% positive, 90% negative, why do 10% like us? And what can we do around that and do more of that?

Mark Graban:
So, instead of defining that gap as the 10%, the problem, if you will, trying to understand what's working well and, yeah, I mean, I. Look, I don't know if this is my nature or my education or the work I do. Yeah. To a fault. I focus on the gap.

Mark Graban:
So when you talk about reflection and what does that mean as a leader and working with others, I realize it's not my default. I have to force myself to celebrate the stuff that's going well. I'm just so wired or it's such a habit or both to focus on. Okay, well, now the gap's 8%.

Ankit Patel:
Yeah.

Mark Graban:
Now the gap is 6%. Just to keep striving toward that. Some people really, that doesn't. That doesn't resonate with people and, you know.

Ankit Patel:
Yeah. And with some people, they both work in different situations. I will say there's a place in time for both. If you're. If you're in a.

Ankit Patel:
In a highly fast moving type environment where cycles of improvement make a difference, the positive psychology can work really well. If you're in a very established industry that doesn't move is very competitive, and operational execution is. It's got to be perfect, then. Yeah. You want gap analysis because that's what's most important.

Ankit Patel:
So it is contextual and it is circumstantial, but there's no reason to avoid half of looking at the positives versus negatives. Everything has its place in its time. Um, to answer your question about why and what brought me to it, the Cleveland clinic. Actually, when I was working there, they worked with case Western on a program, a master's program, and that was one of the programs they partnered with. And so I started, when I was at Cleveland Clinic, I started the program.

Ankit Patel:
I left the Cleveland clinic before I. But I did finish the program. I just left the Cleveland clinic before I finished the program. And it was, I knew I wanted more education. I wanted to learn something.

Ankit Patel:
I didn't feel like an MBA was my path. It didn't excite me. I was like, I really don't want to. You know, I was like, I feel like I would make a lot of connections, but what would I really learn to grow? And I didn't feel like I would get as much from that as I would this.

Ankit Patel:
This was something completely different. In my entry essay, I said, like, look, I want to know how I can change the world, right? Very, very ignorantly mentioning something like that, right? It's like, and so it was interesting because I feel like, okay, now I had, there's some set of tools and understanding and a knowledge and insight that I didn't have before, which was really valuable for me.

Mark Graban:
It really resonates with me, what you're saying about kind of recap. If I heard you right, the positive OD or positive approach works well when you have rapid change opportunities for lots of cycles. And I could see where that would fit well in a startup or a yemenite, an entrepreneurial setting or an opportunity where you're really striving for better, as opposed to a time when, let's say, you have the business model and the services of the products, like you've reached that product market fit, as the lean startup people might say, steady state operations where you're hopefully still improving, of course. Yeah, I could see those different settings you may dip into, I hate to use the phrase toolbox, but these aren't tools, but so forgive me for that.

Ankit Patel:
Well, they frame as interventions, right? So change interventions and so Kaizen. There's a lot of positive psychology built into Kaizen events because you're getting group consensus. The whole system as a whole typically participates in the events. Right.

Ankit Patel:
That's another concept that they talk about. You all align on a goal. It's not always, you know, we try to focus on what could be. At least when I ran Kaiser events, it was always like, what's possible? Can we do this?

Ankit Patel:
Have we done it before at all? Can we test it? And so it was more about what's possible instead of like, oh, gosh, what's broken? What's wrong? And so that it can be very, there can be some overlap there.

Mark Graban:
And I think of my, my friend and co author Joe Schwartz we did the healthcare Kaizen book together. One thing we talked about, I think this was in an episode of how there's a phrase they would use doing Kaizen improvements of how might we, as a positive framing of sometimes people fall into, here's why we can't, and throwing out the barriers. And that could be legitimate, but then kind of turning some of that framing into how might we, what would we have to do for this approach to work instead of kind of falling back and giving up when we hit a barrier?

Ankit Patel:
One of the best tools I like to use in conjunction with efforts when I was doing lean in larger companies, and I use it a smaller scale now is a tool called appreciative inquiry, or intervention called appreciation, which is also initial AI, which just gets a little confusing. But appreciative inquiry is a great way to frame a mindset and frame direction. So what we'll do is if I'm introducing lean to someone new, we'll spend maybe 4 hours or so doing appreciative inquiry, investigation and interview around whatever topic it might be. So the topics I've used before are seamless world class communication and connecting communication. I've used world class manufacturing.

Ankit Patel:
And then you kind of define what that is, and then you ask them for stories. This is the different part, right? The data collections and stories. When did you experience this topic that we're studying? And what was it like?

Ankit Patel:
What were you doing? How did it feel? And so what it does is it generates all these positive emotions and excitement around, oh, yeah. And it kind of relive that. It makes it feel real.

Ankit Patel:
And then you ask them a future based question ten years from now, you're successful in this concept. How'd you start it today? What was your role in it? And so you start seeing, I can't tell you how many times we do this. And, like, there's so much energy to change and drive after that.

Ankit Patel:
So it's just, people just bought in, right? They're like, oh, yeah, let's do this. And so it makes that a lot easier because it gets everyone on the same page. The alignment agreement's better because they've co created a vision together that they want based off the framing that you set up front. And that's a really, really powerful way to kind of use it.

Mark Graban:
Wow. Wow. Well, a lot of food for thought here today, not just around the technology, but how do we use it? How do we harness it, if you will? And it's fun to talk about some of these other approaches.

Mark Graban:
That makes me want to dig a little deeper into positive organizational development. Maybe since I'm going to stop apologizing for not having invited you before, I can invite you to come back in the future. Maybe we can take a deeper dive into that and some of the talk more about the psychology of change. I think that would be a great topic to explore even further.

Ankit Patel:
I appreciate that. Thank you for having me. So I'm glad to be on the show.

Mark Graban:
Yeah, glad to have you here again. Our guest today has been Ankit Patel. I'll make sure there are links in the show notes to the business and LinkedIn profile. If you want to reach out to Ankit and learn more about this, or if you're involved in a practice that could use some of this support, I'm sure there's opportunities to connect. So again, thank you so much for doing this.

Mark Graban:
Thanks for the great conversation.

Ankit Patel:
Thanks for having me. Mark.

Mark Graban:
Yeah.


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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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