Featured Product
This Week in Quality Digest Live
Health Care Features
Etienne Nichols
How to give yourself a little more space when things happen
Chris Bush
Penalties for noncompliance can be steep, so it’s essential to understand what’s required
Jennifer Chu
Findings point to faster way to find bacteria in food, water, and clinical samples
Smaller, less expensive, and portable MRI systems promise to expand healthcare delivery
Lindsey Walker
A CMMS provides better asset management, streamlined risk assessments, and improved emergency preparedness

More Features

Health Care News
Showcasing the latest in digital transformation for validation professionals in life sciences
An expansion of its medical-device cybersecurity solution as independent services to all health systems
Purchase combines goals and complementary capabilities
Better compliance, outbreak forecasting, and prediction of pathogens such as listeria or salmonella
Links ZEISS research and capabilities in automated, high-resolution 3D imaging and analysis
Creates one of the most comprehensive regulatory SaaS platforms for the industry
Resistant to high-pressure environments, and their 3/8-in. diameter size fits tight spaces
Easy, reliable leak testing with methylene blue
New medical product from Canon’s Video Sensing Division

More News

Mark Graban

Health Care

Thinking and Adapting in the Context of Standardized Work

Don’t be afraid to use your brains.

Published: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - 09:15

When I was in Sweden recently, we had a lot of good discussion about the lean concept of “standardized work.”

There was much agreement from different presenters at the lean laboratories conference, and from the hospital people we visited, concerning standardized work—that it isn’t a robotic form of cookbook medicine or cookbook processes. Standardized work isn’t “mindless conformity” as Bill Marriott writes about in regard to the hotel chain.

We found an interesting example of a situation where thinking is required.

Let’s say that according to a process for phlebotomy (drawing blood from a patient) it’s preferable to draw blood from the patient’s left arm. Having a standardized process doesn’t mean we always draw from the left arm.

Somebody asked about an extreme situation. “What if the patient is an amputee and they don’t have a left arm?” Clearly, the phlebotomist must be empowered to make a decision—draw from the right arm. Even if the patient just expresses a preference to using the right arm (because they are left-handed and don’t want that arm to hurt), the phlebotomist could be allowed to make a judgment call, even if the standardized work doesn’t spell out this choice.

As I’ve heard in other contexts, the role of an employee is to:
1.  Follow the standardized work—unless there’s a good reason not to.
2.  Make contributions to improve the letter and the spirit of the standardized work (because the standardized work is defined by those doing the work, not the bosses).

“Standardized work is not what top management says; It’s what staff says,” notes Dr. Göran Ornung, cardiologist and emergency physician, concerning point No. 2.

If people are afraid to use their judgment and make decisions, maybe the standardized work document (and more important, the training) should specify that you are not leaving your brain at the door.

Final thought—there’s a difference between not following the standardized work for a justifiable reason and not following it because you didn’t feel like it. See the article, “A Bid for Better Care, Surgery With a Warranty,” by Reed Abelson, in the May 17, 2007 issue of The New York Times, defining standardized work and their guidelines about choosing not to follow it.

What do you do in your training or management to make sure standardized work doesn’t mean “mindless conformity?”

Many of these same ideas are expressed in Dr. Atul Gawande’s book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right (Metropolitan Books, 2009). More on that later, when I write a full review of the outstanding book.


About The Author

Mark Graban’s picture

Mark Graban

Mark Graban is an author, educator, podcaster, and speaker in lean and continuous improvement strategies through his company Constancy Inc. He is a senior advisor to the technology company KaiNexus, the founder of LeanBlog.org, and the author of Lean Hospitals, Healthcare Kaizen (with Joseph E. Swartz), both recipients of the Shingo Publication Award. Mark’s most recent books are Measures of Success and The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation.


Standardized work in Healthcare

Truly this shows if we look hard and long enough we can find an example to support our theories. Most healthcare applications do not have this little variety.

Tripp Babbitt