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).
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.
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
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
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