Lately, I’ve been working on productivity improvement with hospital teams within their operations. The basic concept of productivity improvement is the team has to do the same amount of work or more with less resources to be more efficient. Use the following equation to calculate productivity within a department:
Productivity = Worked Hours divided by unit of service
- Worked hours includes any worked employee time that is under the control of the manager (regular hours, overtime, education and orientation).
- Unit of service is a measure of volume for the department.
For example, it would be patient visits in a hospital ER. So, the productivity for a department would be an expression of worked hours per unit of service. How many staff hours are used per patient visit in an ER?
There are several methods to improve a department’s productivity including:
- restructuring the schedule
- flexing hours to the need
- regular monitoring of actual hours used and
- permanent reduction of staff based on benchmarks.
Oftentimes, productivity carries a negative connotation. This is because management has traditionally solved low productivity by cutting hours. There is another way to improve productivity. It’s the other side of the equation. Specifically, by focusing on driving more volume through the system, the productivity metric improves.
In the matter of productivity improvement, focus on the volume side of the equation first before considering cutting staff hours. This can be accomplished with a focus on process redesign and is the only other way to get more out of the current staff available.
Here are some resources to get you started:
- Create a Value Stream Map
- Define standard work for key processes
- Identify the 8 Wastes in your process (healthcare focus / non-healthcare focus)
- Use a Circle of Work Analysis to Quantify Waste
- Develop an Action Plan
- Implement a Daily Management System to track progress
- Schedule a gemba walk
So, you see, there are plenty of ways to place an emphasis on improving the volume moving through a system. Alternatively, reducing hours is an immediate solution, but it can have long term negative effects on staff. What side of the productivity equation has your focus?