Using the new reality to drive improvement


What we do and how we do it has changed.  Some things may return to how we were doing them before the onset of the COVID-19 virus and many things may not.  Given that significant changes are now called for, the big question for all of us is, “Do we want to only adjust to the “new normal” or leverage it to achieve better results, more efficient use of resources and create a safer, and more engaging work environment?”  Are we going to let the change drive us or will we drive the change?

If there are any long term positives to the sudden and robust changes brought about by the novel COVID-19 pandemic, they might include:

  • Revealing how unprepared our healthcare system and our society in general were for this event, which has been predicted for over a decade and likely will occur again.  We have been breeding smarter viruses for a very long time and they will continue to evolve as humans seek to limit their impact.  Why is this a positive?  Changes that have been evolving linearly to deal with this and other threats (including innate competition within markets) now have had an accelerant poured on that fire.  This is truly a tremendous opportunity to think and act differently to leverage technology and data to create a less wasteful and more nimble work environment and society.
  • In order to embark on this journey, we must truly understand the components of our work and how those components (space, workforce management, process flow, etc.) can be adapted to safer, more efficient, more flexible operations and processes.  This is a tremendous opportunity if we have the right data and the will to proactively change.
  • The use of physical space is a prime example. This can be a huge fixed cost and an equally huge opportunity to leverage some new behaviors, reduce space needs, and cut travel time and costs for in-person meetings.  How much space do you need in an environment that will likely have new formal and informal rules for social distancing and employee safety?  Can you take what you have seen during the recent pandemic and apply it proactively to the new reality which will include a likely resurgence of this virus as soon as the upcoming winter?  Again, taking a data driven approach to analyzing and formulating the essential and most flexible space needs is an opportunity not to be wasted.
  • Observe how quickly certain automobile and other manufacturers reallocated their assets to build more respirators and make more personal protective equipment.  Can we become better informed and nimble if we have detailed data to help identify the highest and best use of those assets?
  • There may be increased costs for keeping workers safe and investing in new technology to enable smaller and fewer in-person group meetings.  Again, the correct data-driven understanding of the right resources at the right place at the right time can make the experimental iterations of dealing with new rules less painful and perhaps more importantly, articulate in our Strategic Plan the connection between where we want to go and what it will take to get there.
  • It has been observed that we are living in the New Pangea.  Information, technology, disease, people, goods, services and knowledge are so easily transmitted or moved around the world instantaneously that it is the equivalent of living on one big landmass.  Understanding that a second surge of the novel COVID-19 is likely to happen in a few months, it behooves us all to understand our behavior, resources and possibilities so that we can proactively deal with any change, large or small that comes and be a resource in the New Pangea. 

Randy Yust is a co-founder of Beyond Benchmarks.  Beyond Benchmarks is an operations analytics and process improvement consulting business based in Indianapolis specializing in healthcare and hospitality industries.