Happy New Year! Reflecting on my “Ignite the Spark” theme, I’d like to offer more guidance for those inspired to take action in 2023. My message focuses on three key areas that inhibit cost-effective health in this country ― waste in our healthcare delivery system, health inequity and an American lifestyle contributing to significant chronic disease.
There are two elements critical to creating a lasting impact from any spark ignited: Successful collaboration and effective problem-solving. Collaboration is essential given the many interdependencies across our delivery system. Successful collaborators are effective listeners who know how to maximize their influence. While I don’t have space here to do it justice, I encourage you to develop this skill.
Effective problem-solving is a passion of mine. I see so many examples of failed efforts that may have been successful had a proven methodology been applied. One method that I’ve found highly effective is a four-step problem-solving model developed by Pascal Dennis, which can be found on the Lean Pathways website (leansystems.org). The model is based on these key questions:
- Do I know the root cause?
- Do I have a problem?
- Have I confirmed cause and effect?
- Have I confirmed the counter measure?
Let’s take a look at how problem-solving efforts often fall short with the first two steps.
First, when seeking to identify the root cause, many processes simply stop at the direct cause, or where the error occurred, and teams start crafting and implementing broad-scale solutions. But that doesn’t address the root. The Lean process includes a simple technique to get to the bottom of the concern: The Five Why analysis, which digs down into the causes of the causes. For example, ask “Why is A happening?” And if the answer is B, ask “Why is that happening?” And so on until the root issue is discovered. Hint ― a root cause is almost always one of three things ― lack of a standard, lack of adherence to a standard or lack of a system. If our solutions and efforts are to last, we must start with solving the right problems.
Second, when determining if a problem exists, we must quantify what’s happening and what should be happening. The resulting gap is our target for countermeasure and improvement. I’m amazed at the lengths people will go to either avoid measurement or craft a measure that cannot be tracked or makes no sense. This is a trap. Don’t spend time trying to solve a problem that hasn’t been appropriately quantified, because you will not be able to demonstrate success. As finance leaders, we can add tremendous value to our organization by improving our discipline around metrics. I hope you find value in this teaser. There’s a lot of material out there on Lean methodologies, and I encourage anyone interested to dig in. These tools can increase your value to your organization and your personal satisfaction in delivering lasting improvement. Ignite the Spark!