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Making & Taking the Initiative: How to Get the Most out of Your CS/SPD Process Improvement Project

If a tree falls in a forest, but there's no one around to hear it -- does it still make a sound?
If a CS leader completes a process improvement project, but no one notices -- does it still matter?

I'll let the philosophers answer the fist question, but let's tackle the second one here. Yes, if no one notices your new department process improvement, it still matters -- either to your team, your bottom line, or your facility's patients.

But the bigger question is this: How can you get the biggest bang for your process improvement buck? If you're going to spend all the time, blood, sweat, toil and tears on fixing a broken process at your facility, how can you ensure you get your team and work noticed and why is it important to do so? Here are a few answers to these questions, as well as a few secrets on how to market your marvels of CS/SPD success...

1) Winning the Name Game and Making it Stick

As I mentioned in the post on The Power of Words and the Wonder of Wit, how we say things sometimes matters just as much, if not more, than what we say. This is particularly true when we are talking about process improvement projects in the SPD space. Nothing gets the troops excited and holds the attention of a gathering surgical throng like a good "initiative." Training initiatives, leadership initiatives, cost-savings initiatives, communication initiatives -- whatever the angle, I think an initiative mindset is a great place to start.

Allow me to parse this idea out a little more for the unbelieving. One of Webster's definitions for initiative is "an act or strategy intended to resolve a difficulty or improve a situation; a fresh approach to something." Initiatives are new, they're fresh, they signal a parting of ways with the past, a stretching out to take hold of a new future. And that is why an aptly named initiative can:

  1. develop internal department excitement over a change

  2. provide a quick catch phrase for reminding staff of the new project

  3. provide a common talking point for external communication of the change to your customers

  4. promote branding for the project in your department publications

  5. prompt questions from outsiders about the particulars of your project

Just one quick example of this is an educational initiative we drove at our Jewish Hospital SPD last summer that we called "12 by June." Didn't rhyme, no alliteration; it was short, punchy, and easy to share. And it described our goal of obtaining 12 Triple-Certified technicians (CRCST, CIS, CHL) by June of 2015. The excitement was palpable, the signage was fun, the buzz in Surgical Services was over-flowing. And a few months later we ended up on the front page of Communique magazine in an article entitled, "Triple Crown Certification: How One CS Department is Winning the Race for Quality, Safety, and Professionalism." Now not every initiative you do is going to land your team on a national publication, but there's no reason why you shouldn't think, talk, and plan big when you work on internal improvement.

2) Inertia is Irritating, Momentum is Magic

I have never seen a CS department that had zero opportunity for improvement in either its processes, people, or end-product. If we're honest, we all have room to grow. But as wide-spread as the need for positive change is in the CS world, there is still an uphill battle waged anytime the word "change" is uttered aloud within our walls. The inertia of complacency is all around us and its force is strong. This is one of the reasons why it is so important, once you are able to successfully implement a process improvement in your department, to make the success a big deal. The momentum gained from a department "win" in something like dwindling IUS-rates can work like magic on the morale of your team and the culture of complacency which you are battling against.