Technology can sometimes seem like the right way to address issues but most people do not know about the extra problems it can create. You may get a short-term win with technology but end up suffering in the long-term.
If your hospital or organization in on a Lean journey, technology can sometimes go against your philosophy and management system.
Here are some things to consider if you are looking at technology:
- Never automate a bad process. Eliminate waste and understand what the process really needs before you find a way to make it faster. Quicker waste is still waste.
- IT systems should fit the process, not the other way around. In The Birth Of Lean, there was an early Toyota document with the following: “It is not a conveyor that operates men…it is men that operate a conveyor…” So often people change processes to meet the rigidity of the technology. Ensure the technology does not force standardization that has waste, lowers quality, or makes no sense.
- Be able to make changes after it is implemented. So often organizations are stuck with wasteful systems because nobody has knowledge to make iterative improvements or the cost to bring someone in is so high that nobody fixes it until it is totally broke.
- Trial first instead of piloting. Pilots usually happen after you buy the system. I have rarely seen organizations stop implementation if a pilot does not work out like they expected. Organizations usually just change their messaging and training to fit what the technology can do instead of ensuring it does what they wanted it to do. Trialing is part of PDCA thinking and will help ensure the IT system meets the needs of the process without being financially committed to rolling it out.
- Know the problem you are addressing. With today’s technology, there are all sorts of bells and whistles that seem great. Although impressive, the added features may be more than needed (overprocessing waste) and can sometimes distract from why you were looking for technology. These ‘extras’ can also add complexity to your processes.
I think technology can be embraced in Lean organizations but it is important to ensure it is thoroughly tested, reliable, and improvable before you commit to implementing.
Any other tips?