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JANUARY 2021 I SMT007 MAGAZINE 13 Lasky: Absolutely. You have to understand the human factors in anything you do. You just can't assume that people are superhuman. That can be a big mistake. That was one of the issues I mentioned with the manager who wanted people to be working on five top pri- orities. People get burned out, and they'll end up even quitting if that's the case. Especially today, stress is a super important factor. Matties: Stress or frustration is usually an indi- cator that there's a process that needs to be improved. Lasky: I was asked to work with some young medical professors at a large metropolitan hos- pital. They said, "Our main issue is that we have 20,000 patients in our database, and most of them are poor. Every day when we go home, we're 200 prescription refills behind. Could you help us?" We mapped the process out and stayed with it. It took less than a day for about five people to do it, but they argued with each other about the best way to do it. People that were involved in the process were each doing it differently. After we finally got it all mapped out, what we found was the reason they were 200 pre- scription refills behind was that about 30% of the time, the prescription was kicked back by the pharmacy because the doctors who were residents didn't fill out the paperwork right. The person who asked us for help was the boss of the residents, and he told them, "If you have more than three of these in a month, you're out of the program." Overnight, they went from being 200 behind a day to zero. That's powerful, and it wasn't difficult; it was just about looking at your process and understand- ing where it was and why. Matties: The important thing that you keyed in on earlier is there's a process for looking at your process. And if you follow that process, you're going to find what needs to happen. There's a discipline to mapping processes. But when you run into an area where people are each doing it a different way, then you have to find agreement and have the discipline to fol- improvement. But it's important to start with a brainstorming session about what people think they need to improve. And that's some- thing that they have to determine themselves. Matties: That's really where the X=X c – 1 is. They define X; plan, do, check, and act; and define, measure, analyze, improve, and control their operations. You have to help people look for X and understand where's the best place to start. A lot of times, people will start with these grandiose plans that will take a year or more to accomplish. In continuous improve- ment, it's better to start with small tasks in short windows. Then, your team starts to feel the victories. Lasky: I like to call that incremental success, and people will be excited to do it. Here's another example of something that may sound a little bit counterintuitive, but it has happened in my life a couple of times. I worked for IBM in an era when it was probably the best com- pany in the world to work for. But the manag- ers, especially if they were younger, were so hyped up that they wanted everybody to work on many things at once. At that time, my wife worked there, and one of her managers said, "You have five top priorities." She replied, "I can only have one top priority," but they insisted on five. Then, they had a consultant come in. After- ward, the new executives said, "What we learned from the consultant is fantastic. We will not do another project until we finish one because if you have five people working on five number one projects, nothing ever gets finished." That's because you must have your engineers focused, and even if they come up with clever ideas that may be great, that will be the next thing we work on, but you have to finish your top priority first. We all start things but never finish them. Matties: In an environment of continuous improvement, one of the things that we look to reduce is stress and frustration with people's work. That's often overlooked in the improve- ment process.

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