March 21, 2017
By Sonja McLendon, Chief of Operational Excellence, and Carol Burrell, Chief Executive Officer at Northeast Georgia Health System
Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS), a not-for-profit community health system with more than 600 physicians, began its Lean journey in 2008. Still, almost 10 years into our journey, with many successes under our belt, we continually push ourselves to search for new and improved business methods and tools to ensure that we are providing the best possible patient care. We refer to our culture of continuous improvement and our Lean journey as our Quest for Excellence.
One effective way we have found to expand our Lean methodology is through Study Trips offered by JWA and Simpler that provide leadership teams with the opportunity to visit and observe organizations who are successfully reaping the benefits of their own Lean practices. The trips take the Lean practices and teachings from theoretical to real life by allowing our senior leaders and physicians to see the direct impact of these methods in various healthcare and manufacturing environments. From outpatient clinics to factory front lines, the site visit exposure provides our staff with an opportunity to witness the similarities of Lean across industries.
Since 2014, we have sent over 120 employees through the course of six study trips to organizations such as Autoliv, Genie, and Seattle Children's Hospital. By attending numerous trips over the years, we have been able to observe how other organizations have evolved in their practices, and we have been able to see how our own employees and team members have responded and grown from these experiences and become more enveloped in their Lean methods. Having leaders attend more than one study trip session every few years also helps them to see the advancement of these programs and gain a more solid understanding of their own Lean progress and development at NGHS.
While sending teams on these week long trips each year is a significant investment, the return benefits make it well worth it. The trips provide an incredible bonding experience for our leaders as they learn and work together effectively.Each team is tasked with taking the lessons they have observed during the study trip and applying it back to their areas at NGHS. This promotes the mindset of continuous improvement by encouraging staff to find applicable ways to relate current work to what they have witnessed. Without the right mentality and mindset, we would not be able to properly use our Lean teachings and tools to achieve our business goals. These study trips help engrain Lean practices so they become fluid and second nature in our everyday life and work.
Our employees see the value in attending these trips. They go above and beyond to ensure they make the most of the experience by sharing their takeaways with the NGHS team and implementing new processes and projects they've learned. If you have already started on your Lean journey, participating in a Study Trip is a great way to take the next step and put Lean into action.
For more information on Study Trips, or if you are interested in participating, please visit:https://jwaconsulting.com/training/study/ or contact a Tour Coordinator at 206.329.2064.