Up until this point, the King County Correctional Facility (Jail) clinic team has been focused on standardizing work, improving the flow of patients through the clinic, and clarifying new roles in its daily operating system. Once we complete cross-training on the new standard work and have documentation in place, we will be able to achieve basic stability and solidify several process improvement gains. But what part of the daily operating system prevents backsliding into our old ways? What role do front line supervisors and managers and play in support of this? The answer is leader standard work, a primary focus of the current work in the KCCF clinic!
Run the business, Improve the business
Leader standard work provides the routine, standard activities for front line supervisors and managers to run the business, and improve the business of the clinic. It is the highest form of leverage to ensure daily control, staff development, and continued problem-solving. Converting to leader standard work requires an almost completely different approach in day-to-day and hour-to-hour management.
- First, it places supervisors close to where the work happens, where a plan for the day is checked, progress towards daily targets are monitored, and abnormalities are detected and addressed quickly.
- Second, it places our work processes in the spotlight. If supervisors help design a process to produce specific results, it makes logical sense to check process adherence. When abnormalities or variation is discovered, it provides an opportunity to investigate, coach staff, and reinforce the standard work.
Standardization as a key to improvement
No one is exempt from improvement, not even management. Just as front line staff play an important role in defining their own best process, least waste methods, supervisors and managers should strive towards developing their own daily, weekly, and monthly routine work. This is precisely what we are doing with four designated supervisors and leads in our clinic today. This sounds fairly straightforward to grasp, yet remains hard to execute consistently. Self-discipline and follow through are critical factors here. If supervisors do not check the standard work, staff will not think it matters. Standardization demonstrates respect for staff because management is accountable in making sure the standard work is reliable, and that staff have what they need to be successful.
With careful design and practice doing the Leader standard work, I am confident our supervisors can achieve greater predictability within their own work and spend less time ‘putting out the fires.’
-By Greg Burnworth