I don’t think I’d ever heard the word kaizen until I started working at CompHealth. Now it’s a regular part of my vocabulary. Kaizen is Japanese for “improvement” or “change for the best.” In the business world, the term represents a process for improving efficiency and reducing waste.
We’ve been using kaizen events for the past five years or so, most recently as a way to become more efficient in our internal hiring process. Through the kaizen, we were able to eliminate 23 steps and make our hiring process 42 percent faster. We figure this should save us around $20,000 in hiring costs each year!
We have also used kaizens to improve processes for physician staffing, credentialing, and onboarding. Here’s a simplified version of how we do it.
- We pull together a team of employees who are involved in the process we’re trying to improve
- The team identifies (and illustrates with drawings or sticky notes) all the steps necessary to complete the process from start to finish, e.g., creating the job description, promoting the position, screening candidates, interviewing, etc.
- They note how long it takes to complete each step, including time spent waiting for the next step to begin
- The team creates benchmarks for how long each task should take, compared to the current timeline
- We look at steps that can be removed or even eliminated to meet the new timeline
- We implement the new processes
Tackling a process problem can often seem overwhelming. What we’ve found, however, is that big results come from making small and simple improvements. In the infographic below, you’ll notice that one of things we did to speed up the recruiting process was to eliminate time spent walking back and forth to the fax machine.
We now dedicate an entire team to process improvement — and not just our own processes. This team visits clients across the country, hosting kaizen events and helping cut waste from their facilities.
Regardless of the size of your practice, a kaizen is a great way to take a look at your processes and find ways to make them more efficient.