Many organizations have attempted to implement some form of project management into their organization with different degrees of success. Implementation success varies by the awareness and method to which the program was introduced, often leaving many feeling that LSS is just another flavor of the month. Once the awareness of the benefits that LSS can provide has been created, there is often another huddle to conquer related to, how do non-Belt team members understand what you are talking about. Many of us have often heard, “I have no idea what you mean by a Kaizen event, value-add activities, muda, or fishbone diagrams,” and many have a difficult time participating due to “living in the weeds” of the LSS vocabulary. Other practitioners in new LSS healthcare environments are faced with the veteran nursing director who has seen and heard it all and does not buy into the positive effects of applying a LSS approach.

After laboring over countless articles, books, and colleague discussions on how to get mid-level management to migrate from “we have done it all” mentality to “we want to participate” mentality, I discovered that I had the key in my LSS toolbox the whole time. The key to greater participation and understanding in my organization was a personally underutilized tool – the concept tree.

Fast forward to my first meeting of a much-discussed, often-visited subject of a particular department’s turnaround time project. The group had sat in a meeting room for a couple of weeks while members of the team discussed how we were going to improve this department’s time. Maps had been made, times had been collected, conferences had been attended, benchmarking had been completed; but a very discouraged group sat discussing where they should focus their efforts and specifically how to do that. It was at this point that I suggested that we try a concept tree. This was not a tool that I had ever introduced in a meeting; frankly, it was something that I did not think my audience would buy.

I reviewed the premise of the concept tree and the process steps with the group.

Definition:  A visually empowering tool that converts goals or ideas into actionable items.

Step 1: List your central goal, idea or opportunity that you would want to brainstorm, make a decision or expand on – what is your group trying to solve?
Step 2: List what it will take to complete the above goal – these become sub-goals
Step 3: Lather, rinse, repeat – continue until you have found actionable items to meet your original goals

Concept tree applications

  • Brainstorming
  • Strategic Decisions – turn it into a decision tree!
  • Compartmentalizing topics
  • Hierarchy of small projects

The department’s value stream map had already led the group to a particular area of the process and I recommended we start there. The goal was simple, “What would it take to improve this process?”

What the group experienced was the beginnings of recognition, ideas were formed, energy was renewed and the team walked out of the meeting with many ideas to explore and many just-do-its. The veteran directors who had seen it all felt like they had just experienced something new and it worked.

This simple tool had sat in my toolbox for years without being dusted off, but has quickly become one of my most utilized tools when helping my non-Belts and my veteran project participants in embracing Lean Six Sigma. Happy projects!

Happy projects!

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