When a lean healthcare initiative is failing, everyone who is involved can feel it. I’ve seen it time and again. Leaders who were at the helm pull back and even work to disassociate themselves from a project they see as dying on the vine. As a result, lean initiatives struggling to gain traction with unenthusiastic or overly busy teams either don’t take off, or they get left behind. One of the number one problems lean consultants see when they’re called in to help address a failing lean healthcare initiative is a leadership gap. Here’s a closer look at what that leadership gap looks like and how hospitals can take concrete action to get their lean programs back on track.
When lean healthcare initiatives launch, they are usually the brainchild of a specific leader. Someone is excited about being at the helm of the proposed changes and can envision how enterprise transformation will improve patient health care, elevate staff morale, and help eliminate waste from the hospital ecosystem. Yet over time, when a lean strategy fails to generate the right results, leaders become disheartened. They may lose interest in being part of the program or decide that lean strategies don’t work for their organization. Unfortunately, the resulting leadership gap is often enough to be the final nail in the coffin for struggling lean initiatives. Here are a few strategies hospitals can use to re-engage top clinical staff, administrators, and other leaders.
Aligning leaders on the organization’s most important priorities: Every organization has a True North—or an underlying mission—which runs through all its activities. For hospitals, this mission is delivering excellent patient care. Consider the following: if you brought together your hospital’s leaders, would everyone have the same understanding of your shared objectives and a clear roadmap of how they impact operations? If your leaders aren’t aligned about what you’re trying to achieve, it’s going to be much harder to successfully launch and maintain a lean initiative.
Focusing on building a lean culture which supports progress and buy-in: Successful lean initiatives are part of a larger culture which supports continuous improvement and empowerment, and buys into the potential of a focused effort to affect big changes. Often, leaders must be the ones to start that culture. If your leaders see lean strategy as a series of projects—an effort to eliminate waste here and there or perk up profits through one change—your hospital won’t experience the transformative potential which is possible. Commit to cultural change to capture the full benefits of lean hospital initiatives.
Establishing sustainability through ongoing leadership support: It’s a bit of a catch 22—lean healthcare initiatives can only be sustainable when they have ongoing leadership support. Yet if lean initiatives don’t have a history of being sustainable within your organization, they may not garner the leadership support needed to thrive over the long term. Leaders can help ensure lean initiatives remain sustainable by tying efforts into long-term planning and evaluation at the individual, departmental, and organizational levels.
Viewing leadership as part of an engaged team: Hospitals often find lean initiatives fail when employees are not engaged. An empowered and engaged team often begins with their leaders. When top personnel show enthusiasm for lean strategies, incorporate them into operations, and make time by attending scheduled meetings, it sends the signal that these issues matter. Your hospital’s staff will focus where their attention is directed. If your leadership is breaking down, consider small behavioral steps your leaders can take to reinforce the importance of lean strategies to your hospital’s overall objectives and goals.
Choose the right partner: Perhaps the most fundamental truth about the leadership gap is that it can be tough to launch successful lean healthcare initiatives on your own. Often, hospital executives and other leaders are already stretched thin. They may not have the expertise needed to design and deploy a successful initiative, and they simply don’t have the time to learn on their own. However, partnering with the right lean consulting firm can introduce the expertise needed for both short-term wins and long-term sustainability, while connecting hospitals with the prowess required to shorten the learning curve. When your leadership is committed to the kind of results lean healthcare initiatives can offer but are unable to do it on their own, it is time to consider partnering with a lean consulting firm.
Are you ready to explore how the right services can help you overcome a leadership gap at your hospital and ensure you capture the results of sustainable lean initiatives? Contact Incito Consulting today to arrange for a personalized consultation.