Q: What were some of the challenges Virginia Mason has faced and what strategies were taken?
A: We made a commitment very early on that this was not a management system separate from our physicians, because of the way the physicians work in health care. Our executive team said from the very beginning that physicians would be a part of our improvement events — and that was very challenging. It’s hard to imagine how to break away staff for five whole days, particularly physicians, but also nurses, technicians, etc. We had to consistently help people understand that people do take time away for vacations and continuing education, and we manage through that. I think the strategy really is holding to the principle and the knowledge that when they are involved in these events, we really can make huge strides in our understanding and our improvements. So, breaking away for those intensive improvement activities was a big challenge.
The other challenge we faced was the worry from staff that they were going to lose their jobs. That’s why we made the bold statement right up front that people’s jobs would be safe. We held training and rotated people into the kaizen promotion office early on when we didn’t need as many people involved in certain processes anymore.