Building a culture of continuous improvement within an organization goes beyond the ability to execute process improvement projects. An organization that supports continuous improvement promotes a non-blaming culture, focuses on the improvement responsibility of all employees and uses the talent of the entire workforce. Such an organization empowers employees to speak up when they see an opportunity for improvement and values all feedback received. These types of organizations believe that everyone has two jobs: doing the job and improving the job.

But how does an organization begin collecting ideas for improvements? A mid-sized hospital system in northeast Ohio implemented an employee continuous improvement program called ASPIRE. The ASPIRE program leverages the hospital system’s intranet, which uses Microsoft’s web-based product, SharePoint. A web form was built that allows the employee to input an identified problem, their idea and the benefit of addressing the issue. In addition, the form also asks the user to align the problem with one of the organization’s strategic objectives and to assign a business impact.

The employee can then choose to submit the form anonymously or with contact information. By allowing the user to choose whether or not to identify themselves with a submission, the program facilitators are helping to foster an environment of trust. Once the web form is submitted, an email is sent to the hospital’s process improvement experts for review and resource allocation. This workflow allows for a streamlined submission and review process that allows ideas to be acted on quickly.

The program has been running for 10 months and has yielded more than 50 improvement suggestions that resulted in greater than $250,000 savings. After review, surveyors from The Joint Commission (a major accrediting agency for U.S. healthcare organizations and programs) recommended that the ASPIRE program be included as best practice for healthcare organizations. The implementation and success of the program has made a significant impact on building a culture of continuous improvement across the hospital system.

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