This week a department of our organization got together to begin to reimagine what they produce and then the process to deliver it – production preparation process (3P). However, before the 3P process could begin, they had to define the tangible / physical product(s) they produce.
- What is the customer purchasing? What is this department selling? Is it a product, service, or both?
This has proven to be very challenging.
Day one of the event they went to a local manufacturing company who uses 3P. From the visit, it became clear that the product is not the outcome, as in this example they referenced: a mattress company doesn’t sell a good night sleep, they sell mattresses. There might be other products (hammock, cot, etc.) to get a good night sleep, but the company must decide what products they want to focus on to aid the customer achieving their goal.
On day two of the event, this group of very smart, passionate people swirled through attributes, aspirational outcomes (i.e. – “wellness”), methodologies, and services on the way to defining a product. Questions they wrestled with included: Is the product an episode of care or each visit? Is it the plan of care or the methodologies they will experience as they work through their plan?
Are They Alone?
As they labored to define their product, I wondered how unique their struggle is. Isn’t this representative of where many health care organizations are in their journey as a business? How many primary care provider groups, specialists groups, support departments, etcetera, can articulate and agree on what their product is?
If individuals on teams, teams across an organization, and organizations across the field aren’t yet in agreement, should we be surprised that our health care processes are disjointed, highly variable, and full of rework and heroics? If one line worker at a manufacturer thought they were producing forklifts, and their colleague thought it was a plane, coordinated, efficient processes they both were apart of would be fairly challenging. Sounds silly, but this is exactly the conversation this team is having. They identified that some providers see their role as returning patients to a predetermined functional baseline, while others believe the patient should drive the direction of treatment.
In the past, individual practitioners with their own philosophy, approach, and goals was the norm, just as a master craftsperson who produced items from raw materials to finished product was the norm. However, over the last century, the manufacturing world has found a much more efficient method to produce – team based production.
Is health care where manufacturing was many decades ago – moving from individual craftspeople to team based production? The realization by an event team member who said ‘we’re like blacksmiths (team’s example of individual craftsperson) pretending to be on a line / team!’ would suggest yes.
Can your team, department, organization define its products? Not its aspirational outcomes or mission statement, but the actual, tangible product you’re selling to customers?
- If not, can improvement progress until they do?
- If yes, and you’re willing to share, please do. Transformational improvement in healthcare may depend on it.
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