The Lean approach to process improvement is based on identifying and dealing with various types of waste. Traditionally, Lean lists seven types of waste, including defects, overproduction, excessive transport of goods, unnecessary motion of staff, confusion due to poor communication, waiting, and build-up of inventories. An eighth waste has been added to this list more recently, to wit the ‘waste of human talent.’ To my mind, this is the hardest to understand fully and address successfully. In this post, I will try to touch on a couple of salient aspects of this instance of waste.
In an earlier post, I discussed how companies — and specifically healthcare organizations — who want to fix a dysfunctional process often end up trying their hand at something that does not quite yield the hoped for results. This is because, again and again, people fail to take a broad enough perspective of customer service, do not really understand the connection between shared responsibility and pay-for-performance, and generally approach a problem from a variety of well-meaning but too narrow viewpoints.
Today I would like to discuss process improvement from a different angle than the methodological one. I want to focus here on the key personality traits — dare I say virtues — that can go a long way towards making a process improver successful. Continue reading