What is Process Excellence at the Stanford School of Medicine Operations?

Process Excellence is a cultural shift. It's a way for people at all levels of the organization to initiate change. The idea is for the people closest to the work to continuously improve what they're working on with a focus on the customer.

It can start anywhere, but the more traditional start is through a Launch. The Launch is a three day process where 8-12 people on a team get together and work on a problem. During that time they look at what is currently being done, align on the goals and metrics to track their goals, envision an ideal state, and think up ideas. The ideas come from everyone, and it's important to engage the whole team so people know that their ideas count. From there they come up with 30, 60 and 90 day goals and a roadmap to get there using their vision and ideas.

As they work on their ideas, the Launch team gets together in a weekly huddle, around a viz board where team progress is tracked. The viz board allows people to know what issues have come up, where people have made strides and when to escalate things. As they work through these items, they start to have more ideas generated around other areas - which leads to progress and improvement outside of the original Launch.

After the Launch, the team can then use the format to continuously improve all their processes.

Leaders are there to help with roadblocks and give guidance, but it's really the people who are closest to what is being done on a day-to-day basis that can think up ideas and make changes.

What happens during a launch?

  • Lean Training
  • Mapping the Current State of the Process
  • Identifying Pain Points, Issues and Ideas for Improvement
  • Revisiting Goals and Metrics/Measures
  • Envisioning the Future State
  • Prioritizing Pain Points, Issues, and Ideas for Improvement
  • Identifying “Focused” Objectives
  • Discussing connection to current process/alignment with achieving goals
  • Discussing Next Steps and Commitments following the Launch

Viz / Vis / Visualization Boards and Huddles

Viz boards are a way to understand visually if the team is winning, and if anything needs to be escalated. Huddles are generally conducted near the boards and referred to as the team reflects on their progress. They generally consist of a way to visually know if the team is winning on their objectives, a place to track metrics that correspond to the goals, an area for kudos and celebrating wins, and a way to escalate issues. Boards tend to be colorful and hopefully fun, reflecting the team dynamic. They change frequently and everyone should have the ability to change it.

Cultural Shift

While the Launches, viz boards, huddles and other tools are important, it really is a cultural shift. We're empowering people to make the changes that they want to help their customers. Leadership is there to remove roadblocks, but they aren't going to tell us what to do, they're going to allow us to tell them what needs to be done.

Continuous improvement is a cycle of idea generation and follow through that's done from all levels.