Rapid improvement teams

Jt Comm J Qual Improv. 1998 Mar;24(3):119-29. doi: 10.1016/s1070-3241(16)30366-2.


Background: Suggestions, most of which are supported by empirical studies, are provided on how total quality management (TQM) teams can be used to bring about faster organizationwide improvements.

Suggestions: Ideas are offered on how to identify the right problem, have rapid meetings, plan rapidly, collect data rapidly, and make rapid whole-system changes. Suggestions for identifying the right problem include (1) postpone benchmarking when problems are obvious, (2) define the problem in terms of customer experience so as not to blame employees nor embed a solution in the problem statement, (3) communicate with the rest of the organization from the start, (4) state the problem from different perspectives, and (5) break large problems into smaller units. Suggestions for having rapid meetings include (1) choose a nonparticipating facilitator to expedite meetings, (2) meet with each team member before the team meeting, (3) postpone evaluation of ideas, and (4) rethink conclusions of a meeting before acting on them. Suggestions for rapid planning include reducing time spent on flowcharting by focusing on the future, not the present. Suggestions for rapid data collection include (1) sample patients for surveys, (2) rely on numerical estimates by process owners, and (3) plan for rapid data collection. Suggestions for rapid organizationwide implementation include (1) change membership on cross-functional teams, (2) get outside perspectives, (3) use unfolding storyboards, and (4) go beyond self-interest to motivate lasting change in the organization.

Conclusions: Additional empirical investigations of time saved as a consequence of the strategies provided are needed. If organizations solve their problems rapidly, fewer unresolved problems may remain.

MeSH terms

  • Benchmarking / organization & administration
  • Communication
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Decision Making, Organizational
  • Group Processes
  • Hospital Administration / standards*
  • Institutional Management Teams / organization & administration*
  • Management Quality Circles*
  • Planning Techniques
  • Time Factors
  • Total Quality Management / organization & administration*
  • United States