Leveraging Quality with Lean Teams across the Healthcare System

Dear colleagues of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine,

2010 marked a banner year by any measure of success for these laboratories of the Henry Ford Health System. Financially, we performed better than a challenging budget but better yet, collectively, as a Pathology Service Line you made an astonishing 1329 team-based process improvements last year, up from 536 at HFH alone in 2009.Total Process Jan192011 Pathology Words

To borrow an often used Lean term, this is the true root cause of our success.  With our deeper adoption of Lean management through the Pathology Service Line, you have accomplished a remarkable 148% improvement in the 2010 volume of improvements made by you and your colleagues working in empowered work teams according to the work rules of the Henry Ford Production System. These improvements impact not only our own internal lab operational efficiencies but also impact those of our clinician customers and suppliers as we work horizontally to hardwire improved standardized work, connections and pathways.

Your individual contributions are very recognized and reflected in our consistently reliable service levels and the satisfaction scores of employees and our clinician customers. You are recognized internationally as a world-class laboratory and you will be featured in a book chapter in Dr. Jeffrey Liker's new book, The Toyota Way to Continuous Improvement, due out in April. Great work!  I am very proud to represent you.

As we begin our 6th year of working Lean in the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Service Line under Deming-style Lean management, I want to recap our core philosophy and the values that underscore our common laboratory culture of continuous improvement across the delivery sites of the Henry Ford Health System.

Our two core values are first, respect for people, and second, continuous improvement.

We maintain a stable and ever improving work state by empowering and developing our people through a management system that is supportive and structured to continually focus on making improvements at the level of the work that you own.  To be effective in meeting our strategic patient and customer-oriented and business goals requires more from us than the application of principles of work efficiency and technical tools of improvement.

We require good citizenship, communication, teamwork and the following promises to each other throughout the year.

You may consider these our work-related New Year's resolutions:

  • That we will be sensitive to and prioritize our patients' and customers' needs because we touch, in some form, the lives of nearly all patients.

Every life deserves a world-class laboratory service such as ours.

  • That we will be motivated, trusted and directly involved in resolving our own problems as empowered teams, based on agreed work rules, measures and data (PDCA) to achieve our goal of zero defects.

Our culture is one of Relentlessly Pursuing Perfection!

  • That the identification and resolution of problems often resides at the level of the work and that we, the laboratory workforce, are expert in this domain.

We are nationally recognized experts delivering local solutions.

  • That we will be sensitive to each other as mutual customers and suppliers in our daily work, being aware that functional work often takes place horizontally not in vertical silos.

Effective communication in collegial customer-supplier interactions is key to improved work redesign.

  • That we will assume nothing but rather 'go and see' to understand the problem for ourselves before leaping to conclusions that may result in the proposal of ineffective solutions.

Assume innocence. Or in other words- "Believe half of what you hear and none of what you see!"

  • That we take ownership and accountability for the quality of our work to eliminate sources of waste and rework, with its attendant time delay and patient and customer dissatisfaction.

Never pass a defect is our mantra!

We have now put 2010 to rest, and will focus in 2011 with even more knowledge from our 2010 experiences on the same BIG 3 strategic goals for Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

  • Integration
  • Growth
  • Lean management and continuous improvement

Your managers have invested much time in aligning the strategies and tactics in their areas of responsibility of each Acute Care Hospital laboratory service and the Core Lab Divisions so that we can accomplish these BIG goals together in 2011.  You will be hearing more about specific tactics as they become actionable throughout the year.

I have implicit trust in your professionalism, the quality of your work and your ability to team and be creative and innovative in assisting us in improving the important work that we are charged with doing in this healthcare system.

We have created and now continually improve our Lean management system so that you can grow professionally, learn, contribute and be recognized for your contributions and successes in continuous improvement throughout the year. Only with your dedication and support will we accomplish our Laboratory Service Line vision of excellence and make this a successful year for the System.

Stay tuned for future announcements of new refresher educational opportunities created  by the Quality Systems Division staff to be offered throughout the year in face to face short meetings and on-line offerings through the Henry Ford University to assist you in working Lean.

As I have said to your managers, best wishes for a successful learning year, but please learn early. There is much to improve yet.

To that end, I direct you to our Quality Grand Rounds past Visiting Professor, Mike Rother's website of the Toyota Kata that describes Lean, continuous improvement and innovation in a new light. I hope this is helpful to you.

I am very proud of you all and your contributions to this world-class healthcare system. Have a great year.

Best,

RZ