“It’s So Simple!”


I’ve been in the healthcare field all of my professional life. Whether this is your situation, or you have joined us lately, perhaps you’ve noticed the same thing I have. We all know what to do to make things better in our hospitals and facilities. It’s true… just ask anyone. Solve ER overcrowding? Reduce room turnover between OR cases? Fix lab turn-around time? Reduce errors in medication dispensing? Everyone you ask will have the answer. (Usually, of course, it’s someone else’s fault and someone else’s problem to fix.)

And, it’s always “so simple.” EvenHenry Ford said, “You just put the work in front of the men, and they do it.” People should know what to do! Customer service: smile and greet patients like they are welcome in our facilities. How hard is that? We shouldn’t need to hire million-dollar consultants for that, should we? High-quality health care: follow standard operating procedure. It’s right there in the manual, referenced from a dozen national quality organizations! On-time OR case starts: just make sure everyone, including the surgeon, knows to come in 15 minutes early. Easy!

And yet, and yet… When you ask the magic question, “How do you make things better?” what responses to you get? “Well, that is a tough question.” “You’re right, that’s the hard part.” “Well, it’s difficult, alright.” “That’s the $24-million dollar question, isn’t it?” “We’ve hired consultants to help us with that.”

When I read books and articles on management, healthcare, and Six Sigma, there are lots of people with lots of advice about “what to do.” 1. Get leadership commitment. 2. Hire the right Black Belts. 3. Develop a strong infrastructure. 4. Design a good recognition and rewards program. Not too many people come up with the “how to do it.” Granted, each of us is in a unique environment and culture. But, even when we use lean and Six Sigma tools, there can be tremendous difficulty in getting people to agree to “do the right things right at the right time.” And we’re all looking for the simple – miracle – answer, aren’t we?

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When we come across someone who has a “simple” answer, rather than just nodding our heads, we should ask – “Just how do you do that?” (Followed by, of course, “What data do you have to back that up?”) And we should not accept “It’s so simple!” for an answer, especially if we’re paying someone to answer the question.

Comments 3

  1. Dev

    Yes, I agree. I have read some of the management books which talks about removing wastage (a.k.a Lean Thinking) but how-to is not shared. I also agree that every project is unique. However, including a case study with pros and cons would help the reader to decide whether to adapt the framework or not. What I learnt was at the end of the day, irrespective of the frameworks available, it is the report card or the deliverable which matters. How smart can one deliver is rendered through common sense and experience… The rest is history!

  2. Andrew M. Hillig


    I am enjoying your blogs so far, it’s nice to see another lab to quality convert. We should keep in touch, and share thoughts and ideas as we move through the healthcare system. It appears that you work mostly with Six Sigma, while I work mostly with Lean. So, I am sure we can compare notes along the way.

    What speaking engagements have been a part of so far, and who trained you in Lean Six Sigma???

  3. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks for writing Dev and Andrew! I was trained in Six Sigma by GE Health Systems, then experienced some Lean training from Simpler. I’ve done a few speaking engagements recently for the ASCP and CLMA (lab organizations), a web-cast sponsored by ISSSP, and a co-presentation with another MBB for Ixperion.

    For more detail, or more shared lab experience, please feel free to email me at [email protected].

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