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What to Do When Implementing Process Observation

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What to Do When Implementing Process Observation


Observing the ProcessProcess observation is an essential part in the improvement process. The purpose is to observe whether a new standard is performing as expected and sustain improvements. This component of the management system is very closely linked to the Shingo Principle “focus on process.”

When you are starting to implement process observation it can be unnerving for team members. They might feel like it is punitive, or that you are “watching” them because they are “in trouble” or doing something wrong. If your team feels this way, it will not foster the kind of culture that is required to sustain continuous improvement or pursue Organizational Excellence.

Here is some advice to keep in mind when implementing process observation:

Keep It Positive

Since process observation may have cultural implications, it is important that everyone on your team understand why you will be observing them and how it will help the team and their patients. One way to help your team see the process in a positive light is to consider how you refer to it. Recently, one of our staff shared about an organization that refers to process observation as “process confirmation” to help remove any negative connotations. In addition, it is crucial that you model the principle of respect for every individual when you are observing processes.

Make It Visual

Transparency often goes a long way. Making process observation visible to the entire team is a helpful way to put team members at ease because they can see that it is about collecting data on the process and everyone is included. Making it visual will also give you insight into trends and encourage input from the entire team. Some of the most common ways to make process observation visual are with calendars or pareto charts.

Observe as Many People as Possible

Remember, the reason you are observing a process is to ensure that it is producing the desired outcome consistently. To do this, you will want to observe the process many times with as many people performing it as possible. If you collect good data it will be much more valuable to you when determining whether the process is working, or if it needs to be adjusted. From a cultural perspective, observing multiple team member will help prevent people from feeling like they are being singled out.

Keep the Focus on the Process (Not the People)

Finally, when observing a process, make sure to always keep the focus on the process, not the people. If something did not go according to the standard, use humble inquiry questions to help you truly understand why the deviation occurred. If you do this, you will find that the person you are observing will be much more likely to open up and explain variations that may not have been accounted for when documenting the process.

Implementing process observation, or kamishibai, can help you to sustain improvements and ensure that the standards created are delivering on the expected outcomes.  You may even find that the more you observe your staff the better they become at using and following the standards that are in place, making it easier for the team to continuously improve the work.

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