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Improvement Science

Doing to new way of thinking

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Doing to new way of thinking

It appears there is no shortage of people talking (yak yak yak ...) and I have no desire to swell their ranks and add to the cacophony of individuals shouting their opinions.

Reality is unaffected by what we think and say - only what we do changes the course of the future.

So focussing on the practical and the pragmatic; doing to a new way of thinking seems a sensible approach. Conducting experiments on reality.

This week I conducted an experiment: I wanted to see if a group of intelligent, experienced, focussed, well intentioned, well behaved healthcare managers could create an outpatient clinic schedule that would reduce patient waiting time without increasing costs or reducing throughput.

This sounds like a task that a healthcare manager should be able to do without hesitation.

They couldn't do it.

They tried hard to solve the problem using traditional intuition, discussion, and desperation (i.e. trial and error) techniques - and they knew it was solvable because they trusted me not to set them up for failure. You can imagine their frustration. Painful awareness captures the mood.

Then I showed them how to do it using a basic operations management (process design) method called constraint scheduling. The sound of mouths open and not talking was deafening.  They now knew how and the solution was now "obvious" and "common sense" when only minutes before it was "insolvable".

The experiment was complete. We had our answer.

It appears that there are problems that our brains are not designed to solve; and after trying and failing we conclude (from our egotistical perspective) that they are "difficult" and "complex" and "wicked" when in reality they are tame: very tame.

We are not designed to solve these problems intuitively and we have not learned how to solve them rationally.  We are not stupid we are just ignorant. And because none of us know what we do not know we share the blissful ignorance - a collective blindspot. And our excess of confidence over humility prevents us from questioning our own ignorance. 

The techniques, tools and theory of process and system design are part of a body of knowledge loosely called "Improvement Science".

IS includes Systems Thinking and Human Factors - it is a synthesis of the three. So what I am "doing" is developing on-line training materials to disseminate the "how".

What I cannot do is spread the word that IS exists (and has for some time) and that solutions are possible and the methods are learnable.

It will require a social movement to do that.