Weekly Huddles Keep Projects Moving Lean Principles Enhance Marketing Activities

February 1, 2013

by Sheryl S. Jackson

Sheryl S. JacksonThe principles of lean management are ideal for health care organizations. With the core idea of maximizing cus­tomer value while minimizing waste, it might seem that marketing staff members don’t even have to make changes when their organization under­goes a lean transformation. After all, they are the organization’s experts on communicating with and understanding customers.

Not so, says Susan Solomon, vice president of mar­keting and public relations for Orange, CA-based St. Joseph Health, a system that includes 14 acute-care hospitals. “When we adopted the principles of lean management in marketing, we found that we were good at dealing with external audiences, but communication with internal customers had room for improvement,” she explains. “Marketing department staff members deal with so many different projects and deadlines at one time, it is hard to remember to keep everyone updated.”

The organization underwent a systemwide lean trans­formation six years ago. Tools and strategies to sup­port the transformation to a customer needs and service-focused system, while maximizing the use of resources, are provided to all departments, but each one can customize its approach to fit particular needs.

Tuesday meetings with magnets

A tool used throughout the system, the weekly “huddle,” was adopted by marketing. “All 15 members of the department meet for 30 minutes each Tuesday to review major projects, hear announcements, get results of internal customer surveys, and make or hear any im­portant announcements,” says Solomon. Each major project is listed on a board with a red, yellow, or green magnet indicating its status. Red magnets indicate projects that are past deadline, green means the project is on track, and yellow signals potential challenges to meeting a deadline.

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