Mercy Medical Center in North Iowa consists of 240 beds, eight rural primary care hospitals, and a network of clinics and ancillary services. The organization was already known by many as one of the most advanced practitioners of Lean among American healthcare institutions. But like many performance leaders, Mercy’s leadership wasn’t satisfied. They viewed their Lean successes as still confined to certain units and processes of the organization.

Determined to create “The Mercy Way” to bring Lean into the work of every employee, every day, in 2013 Mercy asked Value Capture to help them create a capable plan, and help them hold themselves accountable to execute it. Mercy didn’t need Value Capture’s deep knowledge of Lean principles and tools for teaching; they had plenty of that in house. It was Value Capture’s experienced “outside eyes” that Mercy sought to help make sure they were focused on the critical issues that would make the difference for large scale success.

At the start of the engagement, Value Capture helped Mercy leaders self-assess their current state against powerful and practical principles of operational excellence. Right away, Mercy leaders identified lack of leadership time as one big barrier to broader scale deployment of Lean. How could all of the leaders and managers possibly find several hours a day to do the important work of coaching and clearing barriers? To help, Value Capture facilitated a disciplined process where Mercy’s most senior leaders self-assessed every standing meeting to determine whether it was value added, necessary in the current state but not value added, or pure waste. Mercy’s own team then continued the process for each layer of leadership.

The result? Mercy freed up 2,267.5 hours per year of Senior Leadership Team time to deploy closer to where value is created, and 2,634 hours for other non-SLT leaders. All of a sudden, building Lean into the way everyone worked, including the leaders, seemed much more possible. Through the self-assessment, Mercy also realized the need to:

  • Modify current visual management to allow employees to better align their work, simply and clearly, with the organization’s “True North” goals.
  • Determine, detail and begin training to core competencies for each layer of leader in the organization to support the fastest possible rates of improvement toward True North goals.
  • Simplify Mercy’s approach to training for problem solving and developing standards for work.

To help, Value Capture’s role included providing executive coaching around the development and execution of the organization’s top-level strategies, including helping to coach senior leaders when they are “in the Gemba,” or on the floors where the work gets done.

Value Capture continues to help Mercy create and execute top-level strategic imperatives. Aligned with business goals, the powerful “Mercy Way” is becoming embedded in every employee. As it works to reduce employee injuries and build out its management system to touch everyone in the organization, Mercy is determined to move house-wide measures at faster and faster rates. “I am not sure there is another firm out there that could have helped us like Value Capture has,” says Mercy CEO Dan Varnum. “What they do is not cookie cutter. They make us really work through the key issues and dilemmas, so we can really get this done.”