The SON Gets Lean to Improve Processes

Inside, the walls are papered in colored sticky notes, and crazy string mazes. There’s talk of belts like they have in karate — yellow belts and blue, purple and black. Flip charts bear exotic terms — know what a “Kaizen” is? A “Gemba?” You’d be forgiven for being overwhelmed if you did what the sign on the door asks you not to do and entered the LEAN Project Room on Carrington’s fifth floor.

What could be mistaken as the product of a manic episode is actually the careful and painstaking work of SON faculty and staff who have volunteered to participate in Lean Six Sigma projects on behalf of the School — projects designed to improve our academic and business processes by identifying and eliminating waste and maximizing efficiencies.

Participating staff received dedicated Lean Six Sigma training through the UNC Medical Center’s Department of Operational Efficiency, receiving Purple Belt certification for attending a three-day team-based training program that equipped them with the skills to plan and execute rapid improvement projects, known as “Kaizen events”.

The language is foreign, but the intent is simple: the School identifies a process within the School that is clumsy or challenging or otherwise inefficient — clinical assignments, for instance — and a trained SON team applies the Lean Six Sigma methodology to design a more streamlined process.

So far, three teams have been formed at the SON, and three processes are being addressed: the Clinical Assignment process, the EHRA appointment process, and the SHRA IT process.