How do we Sustain Operational Excellence during a Crisis?

Posted on by Kim Barnas

Berkshire Healthcare Trust is a large mental health and homecare trust in the United Kingdom.  They provide services at over 150 sites in the Berkshire area including hospitals, clinics, and community sites.  This community in the UK was hit by COVID much the same as all of us.  However, their response has been exceptional, and I think a big reason for this is the way they used the management system to take care of their people.

We have been happy to work with their team over the past few years while they implemented their Operational Excellence (OE) program.  They have built an active Quality Performance Improvement team, created a structured management system with excellent strategy deployment, and developed leaders who seek to improve every day.  They shared with me that the OE strategy they implemented has helped them improve even while responding to a nationwide catastrophe. While our current engagement with them is limited to periodic phone calls, they tell me that they have integrated our original work to such a degree that it is now a habit. 

I am sure you have heard me say that the key to sustainment of OE is a management system and an engaged leadership team.  The first time we implemented a management system at ThedaCare our employee engagement greatly improved.  This has now been proven over and over throughout North America and Berkshire in the UK is no exception. We recently learned that Berkshire received their highest quality scores ever!  What is exceptional is that they continued to improve during a pandemic! In fact, they scored the highest in the UK for their type of trust and have some of the highest scores that the Picker organization, who provides the survey, has ever seen!

In addition, Berkshire Healthcare Trust has showed consistent progress across many other measures as well.  This again is important when considering why an organization needs to have an OE system to not only make improvements with projects, but to sustain the gains and continuously improve them over time.  Improvement projects are absolutely necessary, but the hard work and great results will not sustain without both a management system and strong leaders who are committed to continuous improvement!

In a recent article, the Center for Lean Engagement and Research (CLEAR), located at University of California-Berkley, shows similar findings in the US to what we are seeing at Berkshire.  Over the past several years, CLEAR has been researching the effectiveness of Lean in North America.  They have an expansive bibliography and have published several research articles about the use of lean and its effectiveness on financial, quality and service metrics. When you have a chance, take a look at these resources.

What have you learned about OE in your organization during the pandemic?  Please share your thoughts and successes with us.  We are always interested in highlighting great work!

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