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SAMHSA News - September/October 2007, Volume 15, Number 5


What Is Process Improvement?

What’s the best way to make changes in an organization? “In one small step after another,” said Todd Molfenter, Ph.D., Deputy Director of the Network for the Improvement of Addiction Treatment (NIATx).

“What often happens when organizations want to change something is that they begin with a whole planning process that takes 6 months,” said Dr. Molfenter. “The process takes so long that the effort loses energy. Or there’s a lot of resistance, because the change you want to implement feels so final that people are afraid of it.”

The NIATx model was created to prevent such problems. Based on years of research, this approach to process improvement relies on five key principles.

Key Principles

  • Understand and involve the customer. Treatment providers should ask clients about what needs improvement and seek their advice on how to make things better.

  • Fix the key problems. Focusing on the problems that keep the executive director awake at night helps garner support from the organization’s leaders and ensure success.

  • Pick a powerful change leader. Those in charge of organizational change must have authority, the respect of their colleagues, and sufficient time to devote to the initiative.

  • Get ideas from outside the organization or field. Other organizations or even fields, such as the hospitality industry, can offer fresh perspectives.

  • Use rapid-cycle testing to establish effective changes. The idea is to take on one small change at a time and see how it works. After making the change, the team evaluates the results, modifies the change if necessary, tests it again, and repeats the process until the change is good enough to be made permanent.

After each change, explained Dr. Molfenter, an organization has three basic options: If the change worked well, they can adopt it. If it worked all right but still needs a bit of fine-tuning, the organization can adapt it. And if it didn’t work out at all, they can abandon it.

“This common-sense approach encourages organizations to experiment,” said Dr. Molfenter. End of Article

See Part 1: Reducing Wait Time Improves Treatment Access, Retention

See Part 2: Reducing Wait Time Improves Treatment Access, Retention

What Is NIATx?

STAR-SI in Action: South Carolina »

STAR-SI Participants »

ACTION Campaign »

From the Administrator: Striving for Quality…One Step at a Time »

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Inside This Issue
Reducing Wait Time Improves Treatment Access, Retention
Part 1
Part 2
What Is NIATx?
What Is Process Improvement?
STAR-SI in Action: South Carolina
STAR-SI Participants
 ACTION Campaign
From the Administrator: Striving for Quality…
One Step at a Time


Grant Awards Announced

NSDUH: Prescription Drugs Still a Concern

Celebrating Recovery Month

Workplace Report: Employees & Drug Use

Workplace Helpline Active

Co-Occurring Disorders: Integrating Services

Science and Service Awards

CMHS Advisory Council: New Members Named

Presidential Award Bestowed

Prevention Journal Spotlights Homelessness, Mental Illness

TAP 29: Managing Treatment System Performance

Criminal Justice & Treatment: New Brochure


About SAMHSA

SAMHSA News - September/October 2007, Volume 15, Number 5