You won't be able to improve a process or performance measure unless you define it clearly. For a process improvement effort, you will need an opportunity statement or charter. This simple outline answers basic questions, such as:
- What is this process? What are its boundaries?
- How does it affect the performance of important functions?
- Who believes it is important enough to sponsor it and allocate resources?
- Why is it important to our patients/customers at this time?
- Who will work on the improvement?
Answer these questions, and define clear priorities among all who will work on the process improvement before the team is convened.
Process improvement tends to be focused on complex processes. If they were simple and easy to improve, we would have been able to adjust performance levels without a complete redesign. Similarly, processes that need redesign are often those that cross department boundaries.
All departments involved in a process redesign need to share the priority and sense of urgency to address the performance problem. Each needs to contribute at least staff time and a commitment to implement the team's recommendations. Only by producing a clear opportunity statement in advance can you ensure that you will have this level of support.
-Barbara J. Hannon, RN, MSN, CPHQ, and Cynthia Barnard, MBA, MSJS, CPHQ