Sunday, 24 October 2010

Productivity 1: Operational Efficiencies are not enough

This is a the first in a series of Productivity notes from Sarah Fraser.  Are your productivity projects innovative enough?

Organisations, like the NHS, will need to do more than streamline some processes as part of their cost saving initiatives. Many projects underway are badged as productivity improvement yet mostly they are about basic good management. For example, reducing DNAs (Did Not Attends), improving the Discharge Process, holding less meetings, carrying less stock etc. These are important and help to provide a good base form which to develop more innovative approaches, however, I am concerned few organisations considering gains in productivity through redesign and reconception of processes.

Many managers may feel like they are standing in the equivalent of the Victorian cotton mill with a clipboard in one hand and a stop watch in the other. Yes, it is possible to gain more efficiency from a process. I argue, however, that the leaps in efficiency come from reconceptualising what is being delivered. For example, in many countries for at least a decade, group appointments are available for patients with long term conditions. This is one small example of how rethinking a process can create both an efficiency and an improved patient experience.


Mark said...

Dear Sarah
I could not agree more with you on this topic. Many organisations are blinded by their operating systems and cannot see the opportunities for new approaches. For instance some work I did in a health prevention setting some time ago opened my eyes to the fact many people in organisations channel people through the systems set up for by their organisations (with huge bureaucracies), rather than understanding the “consumer” may only want and need certain elements of the potential provision. In particular many found it hard to understand that the “traditional” process map (often a linear diagram) did not describe the interactions. In fact I devised a “spider’s web “ model that allowed a multiple option motion-flow, which more realistically described the consumer experience.
The other “light-bulb” moment in recent years was as a participant in the NHS Expert Patient Programme, which unearthed the impact of systems which are driven by the medical model, often overlooking the holistic needs of the individual consumer.
The NHS in particular still has some way to go to be a highly responsive, effective organisation.
Mark Russell

Mike Davies said...

In the VA world in the US, we're looking at some of this more systematically (finally). The systems engineers did a formal
"voice of the customer" regarding the "Do Not Attends" and are developing some system-wide approaches to improving that next. Will let you know how it works out :-)