4 Problem revealing techniques


4 Problem revealing techniques

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4 Problem revealing techniques

The following methods will help you uncover problems – or opportunities for improvement and help you identify their causes.

Smoothing Flow

One of the biggest barriers to making changes is lack of time.   Smoothing flow is a ‘Lean’ principle designed to increase time available to engage in change and continuous improvement.

Smooth, steady flow through the process is the primary aim.  This means smoothing out the humps and bumps in workload and activity such as flurries of activity; interruptions, bottlenecks that cause overload, down time for staff, and long boring waits for customers, patients or residents.

The trick is not doing value-added work faster.  It is reducing and eliminating waiting, interruptions and delays in the process.  Compare an elevator (continuous flow) to a lift (batching up groups of people); the time spent getting there compared to time spent waiting to get there.

Picture a river with rocks and sticks that may impede the flow.  These are the problems we need to expose and resolve to improve the flow – make it more evenly.


Do any of your problems relate to patient or work flow?  If they do, download and complete the ‘Smooth flow exercise.’

Process mapping and Spaghetti Diagrams

Another way of testing your assumptions and revealing issues that impact on work processes and flows is by process mapping them.  For example, you might engage your team in detailing what they do across their shifts using post-it notes on butchers paper across a time line.  It will reveal variations in practice, possible time wasters and duplications and gaps that lend them selves to process redesigns.

Or – do a spaghetti diagram to find wasted motion.


What sort of issues/problems would these tools be helpful in analysing and measuring?

Smooth flow exercise
Smooth flow exercise 2


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