Making it stick in health care

Dec. 7, 2018 / By Brian Mitchell

Working at 3M, the story of the Post-It note is one that every employee knows well.  In a nutshell, an employee in a 3M R&D lab was developing an adhesive that wasn’t testing out for its intended use. The problem…it didn’t stick. Or at least, it didn’t stick as it was intended. However, the story didn’t end there. The adhesive proved effective in a product known and used by consumers worldwide…the 3M Post-It note. 

Today, that simple note is used pretty much everywhere and for almost any thought, idea, to do, collaboration, and on and on—anything one can think of. How did this happen? Well, behind this adhesive applied to paper is a culture that tries new things. The solutions that 3M develops are engineered by science and backed by analytics, but they are also created in a culture where leadership helps employees be connected to a purpose in their work, where new and better things are tried and tried again and where operational performance is improved and refined through process improvement structure in lean six sigma.

In health care today, transformation is key. Process and performance improvement programs supported by sophisticated analytics can help bring forth the solutions and structure to implement new ideas and approaches to transforming care delivery and healthcare operations. However, there have been many of these types of programs tried at many healthcare organizations in the past, and the results didn’t stick. In many cases, it was because the approach wasn’t complete. Leadership needs to champion the change programs and technology it selects, spending time and resources connecting clinicians and employees to the purpose in the programs, and ultimately, their work. So, try again, and this time, make it stick.

Brian Mitchell is director, consulting – performance management at 3M Health Information Systems.