KataCon Presentation Earns International Respect, Recognition and Opportunity to Share Expertise

Zingerman’s created a specific logo dedicated to kata practice

The Mercy Health Process Excellence (PX) teams in West Michigan are garnering international attention for the positive strides they are making in kata.

Last February, Mercy Health Muskegon Senior Process Excellence Consultants Dorsey Sherman and Maurene Stock – both experts in Toyota Kata – presented the keynote at KataCon in Atlanta, an international conference where continuous improvement professionals gather to hear from the best kata and lean practitioners in the business. They shared their use of kata principles to develop colleagues and improve processes in the health care setting.

Since then, they’ve hosted Zingerman’s and have been approached by United Kingdom’s National Healthcare Service.

Stock and Sherman’s efforts began at Mercy Health with internal Rapid Improvement Events and creating a management system for standardized work in nursing operations, the Heart Center, case management, rehabilitation and inpatient surgery. But as colleagues started to feel safe in the PX improvement groups when talking about change, they’d eventually fall back or drift into their old habits. So, in May 2016, Stock and Sherman began training in Toyota Kata, specifically.

“Using this methodology, alongside our colleagues, we were able to achieve some amazing results that help to better serve the patient such as improvement in echocardiogram turnaround times and reduction in length of stay,” said Stock.

Additional examples include:

  • Increased Acute Rehab fuctional status change
  • Decreased discharge order writing time for all diseases
  • Decreased overtime hours for athletic trainers
  • Decreased Cardiac Rehab (Phase 2) no-show rate

What is kata?

Kata is a pattern of behavior that is practiced in order to increase scientific problem-solving skills. Through this practice, the kata pattern becomes second nature – done with little conscious attention. Examples include riding a bike, driving a car or typing on a computer. People who have learned how to drive don’t have to think much about using the car’s controls – they are able to just focus on the road ahead. The core idea for organizations that practice kata is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. (The Lean Enterprise Institute, 2018). Using kata practice and creating patterns in workflow help drive out excess costs and allow colleagues to look at the bigger picture in order to better plan for what’s to come.

“Toyota Kata really resuscitated our lean management system at Mercy Health,” said Sherman.

Zingerman’s Comes to Town

Mercy Health PX Teams

Zingerman’s is well-recognized and respected in the areas of lean and process improvement. Known for their famous deli on University of Michigan’s campus, Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (ZCoB) is a sizeable group of food-related companies and entrepreneurial ventures founded in 1982. Their vicinity to the Ann Arbor area has presented this team with the unique opportunity to learn from and work with some of the world’s leading authors, experts and researchers in the field of kata, including Jeff Liker (The Toyota Way) and Mike Rother (Toyota Kata). Zingerman’s leaders, who also attended KataCon, were impressed with Stock and Sherman’s presentation, even asking to visit Mercy Health in West Michigan to see the lean improvement results firsthand.

During their visit last spring, the discussion centered around how frequently each unit was practicing kata, how challenges are set, how to engage colleagues who aren’t motivated to practice, and how each organization is developing their kata improvement coaches.

In Grand Rapids, the Mercy Health Saint Mary’s PX team has been on their kata journey for the past five years with a focus on enhancing and building a culture of improvement.

“Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it is the same with changing a culture,” said Sarah Kolekamp, senior Process Excellence consultant for Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. “We have so much to learn by articulating our story and defining the struggles and successes. Likewise, we truly test our own understanding when we offer a listening ear and supportive feedback to others.”

In Muskegon, PX colleagues have been utilizing kata practices as a way to streamline processes and procedures which ultimately create more successful outcomes for patients.

Zingerman’s team also observed Kim Maguire, chief nursing officer for Mercy Health Muskegon, on her weekly kata rounds.

“Kata rounds are my favorite part of the week because I have the privilege of interacting with the frontline staff and management on our strategic aims,” said Maguire. “I’m able to hear firsthand how the staff and leadership are connecting their work and improvement cycles to the organization’s priorities.  It’s also the perfect time to really see what it is they need from me and how I can truly support them in their work.”

Zingerman’s crew members said how impressed they were by the support of Mercy Health administration for encouraging and celebrating their colleagues’ continuous improvement efforts.

“It’s pretty unbelievable to listen, share, observe and learn from a team committed to developing people and improving the work as you all are,” said Laura Wonch, manager of Zingerman’s Deli.

Continuous improvement has become part of the overall culture at Mercy Health, considering the consolidation work of combining the legacy of three Muskegon hospitals into one; the new outpatient medical centers being established in neighborhoods to offer greater health care access for patients; and the addition of the Innovative Primary Care office in Grand Rapids, which is reinventing the experience of the provider visit.

“I think I can speak for the entire senior leadership team and say how impressed we are with the Process Excellence team’s work.,” said Jeff Alexander, vice president of Strategic Integration and Subsidiary Operations for Mercy Health Muskegon. “Their introduction of a lean management system and lean tools, such as kata, have already improved our workflow and patient experiences. As a result of the team’s leadership and coaching efforts, we are well on our way to the creation of a new lean culture that will significantly improve the future of patient care in West Michigan.”

International Fame

Building on the momentum of the keynote presentation at KataCon and Zingerman’s visit, Stock fielded a phone call recently from Alan Martyn, national director of Lean Transformation in the United Kingdom for the National Healthcare Service.

“I am keen to talk to someone like yourself who has more experience with kata in healthcare,” Martyn said while on the phone with Stock. “As you know, the NHS is a huge organization of 1.7 million staff and the only way I can think about leading a lean strategy across such an enormous organization is to have kata at its core.”

For Stock and her PX teammates, this is just the beginning. With additional conferences and observational visits planned throughout the year, the regional Mercy Health PX team is looking forward to the continued growith and development of others in the practice of kata.

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