In November 2018 I was lucky to have the opportunity to go and visit the Virginia Mason Institute (VMI) in Seattle. Leeds Teaching Hospitals is one of the five Trusts in England to be working directly with VMI and I am a member of the Trust’s Guiding Team (setting the strategy and overall management of the work) and the Executive Sponsor for one of the Valuestreams (areas within the Trust where the improvement method is being used intensively).
The Seminar was organised specifically for the five NHS Trusts and there were a significant number of clinicians there, alongside other Exec Directors. We spent some time in the ‘classroom’ but were out in various departments within the Virginia Mason hospital and had a visit to the Debtors’ team. We were there to learn how to make best use of the improvement method specifically, alongside seeing how their culture supports continuous imrpvoement.
For example, we visited Debtors’ during their morning ‘huddle’. The meeting started with the team leader reminding everyone of the VM values and strategic goals and linking the work the team were doing to the ultimate goal of treating patients well. She then moved on to identifying what had happened the day before in terms of recovered debt and matching income received to invoices. It was also an opportunity to point out that a section of the team were under pressure and to request help from other parts of the team. It was a conversation with the whole team, rather than a lecture and as a round-up at the end there were questions from the team on anything else, including who was going on the night out at the end of the week.
Whilst I’ve seen these sort of huddles in clinical settings - Theatres would be a prime example - this was the first time I’d seen it in a team which felt directly comparable with our work in my team. The linkage back to the ultimate reason for coming to work was really powerful for me. It was also really helpful to see that not all members of the team were entirely bought in to the process. I’ve tried in the past to make things perfect for everyone, but this helped me realise that to get it right for the vast majority might be good enough. That’s not to say we don’t engage with those who are struggling to understand the need for something, but it does mean we don’t have to wait until absolutely everyone is on board before launching something.
Have I done everything I said I would as I came back all energised? No. As with many things, the day job has got in the way! Am I doing things a little bit differently, and thinking about how we as a team use continuous improvement tools to help us? Yes. And becoming a Valuemaker has pushed me to think more carefully about how to embed these tools within our team and our work.
Oh, and yes, we did go up the Space Needle - mostly to keep us awake after the flight!