Recently, I was part of agroup Black Belts who were discussingthe pressure on leaders to improve, not just in one direction, but in as many ways as possible, seemingly all at once.

Here’s a possible scenario, from a hypothetical healthcare organization in the beginning stages of deploying Lean Six Sigma. A Vice President is speaking to Director:

The organization’s customer satisfaction scores are down, so we’ll implement a series of projects to bring those scores up. These aren’t “big” enough to be Lean Six Sigma projects, and in any case service improvement is different than operational improvement so we’ll use something everyone is comfortable with – PDCA. We’ll need people from your department to work on these teams.

Oh and by the way, we’re implementing a new computer system to replace paper charting, and this new electronic medical record will be rolled out over the next year or so. We’ll be using the IT Project Management Structure for this. We’ll need people from your department to work on these teams.

And there’s a series of clinical quality projects coming up, thanks to the new “pay for performance” reimbursement plan from our third-party payors (insurance companies), so we’ll be kicking off a few projects using CQI. We’ll need people from your department to work on these teams.

While we’re at it, the facilities team is working on a plan for renovating a major part of the building, and we certainly want your input, so we’ll need a few people from your department at these meetings. We don’t have a structure or methodology, we just want people to come and share ideas and the planning team will make the decisions.

By the way, how come you don’t have more active Lean Six Sigma projectsin your area of responsibility???

No wonderwe Black Belts sometimes hear the cry, “Stop the Madness!”

In an ideal deployment, all strategic planning and project selection would flow from prioritized goals, with agreed-upon targets and metrics. What I find, in talking with other Black Belts, is that each part of our organizational culture has its own favorite method of selecting projects and choosing project methodology, because that’s what has worked best for that area in the past. Granted,anyone working in process / operational improvement should be conversant with multiple methodologies – but it was a revelation to me that we may havesilos of “improvement methodologies” even as we’re trying to break down the barriers between functional areas!

If you have experience in moving your organization toward a common methodology and language, please share your experiences!

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