AHRA 2015 Virtual Fall Conference: 5 steps to turn staff into problem solvers

The AHRA 2015 Virtual Fall Conference, which allows attendees to experience prerecorded presentations and live chat sessions from the comfort of home, is still going strong and continues until Oct. 30.

Mike Holland, vice president of lean healthcare for NEXT LEVEL Partners, is one of many presenters who recorded a session for the conference. His presentation, “Converting Staff from Task Masters to Independent Problem Solvers,” dives into specific practices that can help leaders turn each and every person in their organization into a prepared, confident problem solver.

“We need to lead people, not manage them,” Holland said during the session. “We need to manage work, not people.”

The goal, Holland explained, is to move from the “Old World” school of thought on leadership, which was that you simply told your workers what to do, and embrace the “New World,” which means asking everyone on staff for their insights into how things should be done.

Holland breaks down his strategy into a five-step process, and he discussed each step during the session.

Step 1: Use a visual board

A visual board, Holland said, helps the team track three to four different metrics at a time. It is literally a large board that summarizes what the team is tracking, and the metrics should always be specific to the overall organization unless specific issues exist that must be addressed.

Holland recommended that teams consider tracking safety, quality, cost, and experience with their visual boards, calling out safety as being especially important.

“Safety always has to be first in everything we do, whether it is the safety of our customers and patients or safety in the workplace,” Holland said.

Step 2: Hold shift-start huddles

Shift-start huddles are concise staff meetings led by the manager, who stands in front of the visual board and touches on the very metrics being monitored.

Holland added that these meetings should be mandatory and include both staff members who are leaving for the day and those who have just arrived for work.

Step 3: Follow up with just-do-it huddles

Holland said that shift-start huddles are followed by smaller just-do-it huddles, which are about solving problems in real time.

“This involves the manager or supervisor from the workplace truly engaging their experts, who are the staff that work in the area, in taking an issue from the visual board that’s discussed in the shift start huddle and really starting the process of solving that problem,” Holland said.

Holland also emphasized that one of the most important aspects of a just-do-it huddle is that all correction actions should address the root cause of an issue and not just the symptoms.

Step 4: Create standard, visual-based processes

Once the just-do-it huddle has determined an effective solution, that solution can then be shared with the entire team. By explaining new standards in a more visual manner, and posting them in the work area for everyone to see, it becomes something the staff can view and reference as needed.

It doesn’t need to be exclusively visual, Holland said, but written-out steps should be simple as possible. Training on more technical details will still be required as necessary.

Step 5: Monitor effectiveness

The final step involves circling back to the beginning and going back to the visual board. After 30, 60, and 90 days, look at the data and judge if it has been effective.

Just make sure you don’t bypass this step altogether.

“Folks will get excited, and you will be tempted to skip this step,” Holland said. “Please do not. If we choose to skip this step in our excitement, what you will likely see days, weeks, months from now is that problem returning, and then we have to go through the process again. So I would highly advise, let’s not skip this step.”

If, after 90 days, it appears that the solution is still working, the manager can then consider removing it from the visual board and replacing it with a brand new metric. And if the team never reaches those 90 days because a solution was not effective, Holland said, the manager should look at their own efforts instead of placing blame on the staff.   

“If the process does not perform as intended, what we should be quick to look at is, ‘Are we doing a good job as leaders, coaches, and mentors in making sure our managers and/or staff that we are coaching are being coached to a high level, and effectively?’” Holland said. “After all, if we’re not reaching the condition we want with a process, the problem, we should believe, lies with the coaching, not with the staff.”

More information on the AHRA 2015 Virtual Fall Conference, which includes Holland’s full session and any others, is available here