SHARE Reps Learn to Use Lean to Improve Their Jobs

One morning in early March, over twenty SHARE leaders from all over UMMHC came together for a special, customized “White Belt” training. We even welcomed a few SHARE colleagues from UMMS who work in related jobs. Our hospital has adopted a "lean methodology," and our union wants to understand that, to know how we can make it work for us. So far, SHARE members’ experience of lean has been uneven: many SHARE members feel that their idea boards are helping make their jobs better, while some have not noticed any change.  Others wonder how to use these tools more effectively.
We began by talking about the purpose of process improvement.  A “good process” is one in which doing a great job is relatively straightforward; in a good process, it is difficult to make a mistake. A “bad process” is unnecessarily complicated, one in which it can be frighteningly easy to make a mistake, leading to high levels of stress and burnout (not to mention worse outcomes).  If you have to struggle against the system to make the right thing happen, leaving you exhausted and frustrated, you’ve got a process that needs improving.  SHARE reps’ stories of processes in need of improvement were hilarious and horrifying, sometimes at the same time.
When some organizations say “lean,” what they mean is “do more with less.” However, SHARE reps learned to substitute an idea of flow, since the point of process improvement is to keep things working smoothly, to remove barriers that get in the way, wasting SHARE members’ time.  Reps learned more about idea board best-practices; many left with ideas about how to improve their department’s board.
One highlight of the morning was a visit from Eric Dickson, CEO of UMMHC, who encouraged the SHARE Reps to "ask what is the problem we are trying to solve?". When a manager or supervisor proposes a process change that an employee is not sure will work, or doesn't understand, Dr. Dickson suggested, rather than just accepting it but being frustrated, or refusing to change, they should ask the manager to clarify the purpose of the change. Ask why. Work to agree about the definition of the problem. He pointed out that when we're on the same page about the problem to be solved, we're more likely to come to consensus about how to solve it.
At the end of the training, the SHARE reps wanted to know more about the flow and problem-solving tools involved in lean. The next step, a “yellow belt” training, is in the works!
All SHARE members can sign up for lean process improvement training (many hundreds have already attended).  You can sign up on Ournet.