Key to a Successful Process Excellence Program? Make Sure it Aligns with Corporate Culture

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Shayne Ginder


Shayne Ginder, Director of Performance Improvement for Sunrise Senior Living, is building a process improvement program from scratch. In this interview, part of our ongoing series of interviews with recent attendees to PEX Week USA, Ginder describes why it’s so critical that her new program align with corporate culture and ways that she’s making that happen.

She also argues that it’s important not to lose sight of the impact of process improvements on the customer and explains how the PEX profession can use a really big toolbox. 

PEX Network: Why did you decide to attend PEX Week USA earlier this year? 

Shayne Ginder:  I've been to PEX a couple years in a row now, and it's always a great event. But this year in particular, really compelled me to come back because of the addition of the culture track. I'm a big believer in corporate culture when you're talking about or thinking about or in the process of implementing or creating an improvement program, the ability to adapt and mold that program to the corporate culture, in my opinion, is a key success factor. So it's great to get ideas of what other companies are doing, how they have found successes and, even more important, what didn't work for them. So for me, that sort of culture track was a really compelling reason to come this year. 

PEX Network: What were your key take-aways? 

Shayne Ginder:  I always love hearing from the award-winners. I think there's so much to be learned from them. The last two years I have judged an award category and I'm a huge fan of that part of the program. 

The stand-out for me among the award winners was BASF and what they were able to do with a really small and tight knit team of people dedicated to an improvement program. What they were able to do is phenomenal because improvement became a part of everyone's job and a part of the corporate culture. It's clear that something like this doesn't happen overnight, but it really demonstrated the powerful impact that it can have when the whole team is on board and doing it together. 

It brings me back to the Nike presentation where they had a more mature program and really took a step back and re-evaluated where the program was and asked themselves how could they raise the bar? When you're in a position that you can make improvements to your improvement program, that's a beautiful thing. 

Coming from someone like me, who's building out a new program at a company, it's my goal to get there with my program. But we all have to walk the walk, and if we're talking to our companies about improving and continuous improvement, we have to be willing to do it ourselves. 

PEX Network: You've mentioned your work at Sunrise Senior Living. How do some of those points apply to your current business challenges and what you're doing now? 

Shayne Ginder: We are building an improvement program from scratch.  As you can probably guess at this point, I'm going to say that I believe it has to align with the corporate culture. We’re especially trying to ensure that we align with the idea of respect for team members at all levels - whether that's someone in the boardroom or someone on the front line who's providing care and services to our residents. 

We also emphasize the importance of not shoving an idea down someone's throat but instead really soliciting ideas from people at all levels. In particular, we want to ensure that we solicit ideas from those front line team members because they're the people who do the work every day. They know what the challenges are and they know the things that they've done and implemented themselves to overcome those challenges. 

So I'll give you one example. We're working on a project right now where we're using a time study to collect data. We're going out into our communities and actually shadowing front line team members for a shift. We're doing this across all days of the week, all shifts, in many different markets. But as you can imagine, if you're a front line team member who provides care and services to a resident, having someone from corporate come and shadow you is a little bit intimidating. Or maybe it’s a lot intimidating. 

So we've done a couple of things to adapt that I think really align with our corporate culture. When we go out, instead of dressing like we would dress if we were in the corporate office, we wear the uniform of our front line team members. We're also being very transparent in what we're doing and why we're doing it. 

We'll show them the tool we're going to use to collect data. At the end of the shift, we'll actually show them the data. We're very transparent in saying that we're not writing down anyone's names, and we show them that too. 

We're also very cautious of the way we word things and the tone that we use. So, for example, when we're collecting a time study, we don't say I'm here to time you or I'm here to see how fast you are. We make it a point to say, this is not about how fast you are. This is about understanding how long things take. 

Then, at the end, when we come back to the office, we sit down and we take the time to write handwritten thank you's for all of the people that we've shadowed just to show them the recognition that they deserve. We know it is hard and intimidating, and their job is hard enough without a stranger following them for the entire shift asking questions. 

PEX Network: You have been working on process excellence and transformation for quite some time. Where do you think the profession is heading or perhaps needs to head next? 

Shayne Ginder:  There are a couple of things that come to mind and I don't know that they're necessarily new ideas, but I believe that they are really important and something we should all be thinking about. 

The first is the idea of having a big toolbox with multiple tools in it. I think practitioners tend to get really passionate about a particular tool being the best. They’ll almost fall on their sword for that: Lean or BPM. The way I see it is that, as a practitioner, I'm faced with many different business challenges in many different scenarios every day. The best thing that I can do is have a big toolbox with multiple tools in it so that, at any point, I'm equipped with everything I need. I can pull out the tools that are most applicable for the problem at hand and use those to demonstrate value and to find the improvement that we need to find. 

The other thing that I tend to get really passionate about - and anyone who's worked with me on the judging panel will laugh when they read this - but I'm really passionate about keeping the customer at the center. I think we can't ever lose sight of that, and I think sometimes we do. Maybe it’s for the sake of finding cost savings, or finding an improvement to an internal process and maybe we do something that works for us, but we don't always think about what that means for the customer and whether it's best for the customer or not. Again, anyone who's worked with me on the judging panel will know that's always the question that I'll ask: “tell me about the impact of what you did on your customer?”  I think we can't lose sight of that. Otherwise, we're doing everyone a disservice. 

I'm working on a project right now at Sunrise, and without giving away a lot of proprietary information, there's a wide variation in a work product that the customer sees. This particular work product happens to be the first impression that a customer has of us, and across all of our different communities, there's a pretty wide variation. Some are better than others, but even in the current state, the ones that are on the better end are very focused around us, and what we need internally, and what works for our processes internally, not necessarily what's best for the customer. 

Another example, that I think everyone will be able to relate to is when you go to the doctor and you have to fill out multiple pieces of different paperwork. Maybe every one of them has your address and your insurance information on it. Why do you have to write that information five times? Why can't you write it once and all of the internal departments at the doctor's office all get it from one piece of paper instead of having to fill out one piece of paper for each of those departments with the same information on it?  So having five pieces of paper works for that office. It works for their process. But does it make sense for the customer?