As a career operations professional, many of my friends understand that I see process flows in nearly everything I encounter. Some friends find this entertaining, others find it a bit annoying. But mostly they allow me to exercise (not exorcise) my craft. You see, I was born of operational parents. I’m not sure if it was nature or nurture, but regardless I was tuned to “see, map and measure” as a young child in Iowa.

The backdrop of my story today is one that many of you can relate. It starts with my Mom. She has generally enjoyed  good health and an active lifestyle. But, after she retired from nursing, she does require the occasional “tune up,” which for parent and child can create stress and nervousness.

The most recent event occurred last year. Over the holidays, Mom announced that her doctor suggested she take action and proceed with the removal of cataracts on both eyes. She then told me that she had just made both appointments for outpatient surgery at Wolfe Eye Clinic in West Des Moines and that they would be about a month apart. Seeing the concern in her face, I immediately made a note to make time in my schedule to be present during both surgeries.

The night before the first surgery, I flew home. At 6 a.m. the next morning we were up and preparing to leave for the surgery center. I could tell through Mom’s actions that she was pretty stressed because she kept referring to cataract procedures family members had 20 years ago and how difficult it those had been.

After much reassurance that the process had changed, off we drove. The appointment was set for 8 a.m. and we got there a little early. Our check-in process was efficient and pleasant, so we settled into our waiting room chairs. I started thinking to myself, “How long will we be here today?” The thought had barely crossed my mind when I heard my Mom’s name announced. I was promptly asked to wait in the lobby and told they would come and get me in five minutes. 

As my skepticism continued, I was approached by the nurse that walked my Mom back. She asked me to come back to join her. The nurse spent the time walking with me to describe the timing and process so I would be informed. For the next 45 minutes, they would prep Mom’s eye for surgery (using several timed drops), and the anesthesiologist and surgeon would pay her a visit. Then at 8 a.m. she would go into surgery where it would take 15 minutes (max). Next, she would proceed into post-op where she would rest for 15 minutes (this is where I would join her again). At that time, the doctor would see her again, sign the discharge paperwork and we would be free to leave.

They were definitely talking my language.

Process steps. Timing. Flow. This same process was described to Mom so she could ask any remaining questions. 

Forty-five minutes later, Mom rolled down the hall toward surgery, and I started my internal stopwatch.

I returned to the lobby, pulled out my level-five Sudoku and gazed at the crowd that was flowing through the waiting room. There were no signs of visible stress in any of these folks. I thought, “Wow, these guys are good.”

With that thought barely constructed, I heard my name called. It had been 15 minutes and I was returning to my Mom’s side. I found Mom in great spirits. The surgery went as planned and the doctor told her she may go home and resume her typical activity level. 

Wow – two hours door-to-door and we are on our way home. So now my thinking turns to the next step: Can they do this again in 30 days for the second eye?

Thirty days later, I again fly home the night before. We’re up again at 6 a.m. on the day of surgery, but I notice a difference. Mom has no stress (and neither do I, by the way). She is “matter of fact” about the process and how long it will take. The only thought in my head is, “I hope this process truly IS repeatable.” 

Once again we check in, take a seat and my Mom’s name is called. It’s even the same nurse as before. Mom and the nurse now are kindred spirits, enjoying the early morning conversation.  The nurse reviews all the details of the next 45 minutes, as well as the post-op process again.

The process standardization and communication has not only informed us again, but Mom’s blood pressure is lower and any signs of stress have been reduced (or eliminated). Like a well-scripted performance, the actors (doctors and nurses, in this case) all hit their marks again and Mom is rolled down the hall.

As I sat in the lobby, with my shattered skepticism, our new family friend, my Mom’s nurse, comes to retrieve me. Once again, 15 minutes and I am back at Mom’s side. I am amazed at the calm environment and the efficient flow of the process. And yes, once again, the process ran like a Swiss watch.

At my company, Supurna, we see businesses as a “system of flows” which we call the Performance Chain. Supurna has a global reputation of “seeing” these flows through four lenses: Speed, Flexibility, Predictability and Leverage. Once characterized, we apply tools such as Lean, Six Sigma, Change Management to customize a sustainable solution that releases working capital, capacity and speed.

As I sat and experienced the Wolfe Eye Clinic in West Des Moines, I was left only with accolades for successfully designing and executing a process that supports a very strong customer experience. Not only was the complete process efficient, but it also reduced the stress of the patient’s pre-surgical health (in this case, my Mom). Now, that’s how a performance chain should work.

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