Lean Management Systems and Actionable Empathy...or, "How Was Your Day?"

We have all experienced significant stress. You know, the feeling that you're treading water after just being dunked by more than a few unforgiving waves... and more waves are coming...and it's dark.

There's nothing worse than giving maximum effort and knowing that it might not be good enough. Well, actually there is something worse - feeling like you're all alone and no one cares.

Primary care physicians can experience that kind of stress. Often they are a pretty autonomous lot. This can enhance the feeling of isolation. Enter the benefits of tiered meetings as part of an effective lean management system.

Tier I meetings, typically a short (5 to 15 minute) daily  meeting, fosters communication and helps focus the natural work team on process performance, improvement opportunities that have been surfaced in the last 24 hours, and planning for  the next 24 hours, etc. But, I never really thought too hard about the role of empathy within the tier I...until I heard a doc, a recent lean convert, describe how it has helped change everything.

His team of nurse, medical assistant and secretary, within what they appropriately reference as a tier I "huddle," regularly starts with the staff asking the doc the important question of, "How was (is) your day?" Now, this didn't start as part of the tier I's standard agenda, but instead was an intuitive question asked by a caring staff.

As the physician described the tier I, he focused on the discussions around schedule, patient wait times, rooming performance, and team implemented improvements, but he also talked about how he no longer felt like it was him against the world. The question of, "How was your day?" seemed to change so much. His team cared, wanted to help and regularly did.

Patient satisfaction has improved dramatically over the last several months and so has provider and staff satisfaction. It all makes sense.

Related post: How to Audit a Lean Management System

There are 2 Comments

Matt Wrye's picture

What a great insight. Never thought of something that seems so small making such a big difference. It just shows how you can't take anything for granted.

markrhamel's picture

Hi Matt,

Thanks for the comment! You had the same reaction that I did. I was blown away by the doc's insight and the impact of what may seem like such an innocuous thing. It just proves once again that lean is as deep as human nature.

Best regards,
Mark