It’s been 40 years since the principles of Lean and Six Sigma started to be applied and since that time organizations have been aligning themselves and their processes with a Lean methodology to various degrees of success.

As Process Improvement has gained attention in healthcare as a need and new way to define gaps in performance, hospitals and health systems have provided their fair share of great success stories alongside an equal number of implementations that fell flat.

One of the weaknesses we identify regularly within Lab Operations is the concept of being “finished” with Process Improvement.  A “been there, done that” attitude brings a quick close to questions around necessary change. The key to navigating such terrain as a leader is in adopting a process improvement mindset and modeling it for your team.

Speaking with Winfield Clark, a Lean Six-Sigma Black Belt and Process Improvement expert, he laid out four critical factors and the language to model to bring a positive Process Improvement mindset to your lab.

Bring awareness and attention to what is working and what’s not.
One of the most critical factors when leading a lab in a time of change is recognizing what does not need to change (what’s working very well) and being clear on what does need improvement (what’s not working).When we hear leaders using language like “help me understand how you found this opportunity and what it will take to reach this goal….” we know we’re working with adaptable and committed leaders. Bringing awareness to what has brought successful outcomes to bare is critical in repeating that success in new areas of process improvement.

Hold accountability.
Of all the mindset shifts this is the most difficult and the most critical. Holding the tension of accountability as a leader is integral. We see this most in moments of resistance to the necessary change. We hear the best leaders say things like “I understand your resistance to this change, but we have to own it. I’d like to understand why and identify how we can work together.”

This creates an opportunity for dialog while still holding steady on the need for the change. The invitation to see the problem from a position of a solver and not opposition is necessary for success. Leaders with a process improvement mindset bring that invitation to the people on their team.