Your Industry -- Healthcare
Aside from traditional
reasons for using simulation, including its capabilities
to capture variability, interdependencies, changes to
systems over time, and run “what if” scenarios
to study change, other, more subtle but equally critical
factors make simulation’s use efficacious.
Quantification of Change is often
a stumbling block to change implementation, since the
actual outcomes of process changes are impossible to
quantify without tools like simulation. Thus changes
can be frightening at best, and are thus often not implemented,
particularly by those who haven’t “bought
in”. Simulation quantifies the effects of change,
in time and in dollars, so proper decisions can be made
objectively and with confidence.
Objective Analysis. Often, change
options and system “bottlenecks” are hotly
contested subjects. Finger-pointing can replace change
management when discussing critical topics. Simulation
offers accurate, objective, scientific, and data-driven
solutions which create different discussions and different
arguments, and which also allow for a more objective
and “rational” discussion. The accuracy
of scenarios opens up new opportunities for learning
and discussion, and allows conflicting opinions to better
come together to create synergies and consensus.
Systems Learning. Knowing how a system
will react to external and internal changes can be difficult
to ascertain, particularly in the “heat of battle”
and in the midst of a constantly changing system. This
is why the US Military regularly uses battlefield
simulations to enable leaders to make better decisions,
better analysis, and increase effectiveness.
Via “what if” scenarios, and “playing”
with their systems, simulations allows Managers to learn
their systems better through a better understanding
of the outcomes of changes, whether they be changes
to acuity, volume, staffing, available resources (i.e.
beds and equipment), new or expanded space, ancillary
services issues, etc.
By learning how a system reacts to change, line managers
can better manage “on the fly” and understand
“breaking points” in the systems that require
Creating creativity. Research
has shown that “prototypes”
(whether they be clay models or simulations) help drive
the creative process, rather than the other way around.
In other words, by offering a venue for creative thought
that is free of consequence and risk, “prototypes”
offer a way for staff to test ideas and challenge the
status quo. This furthers the creative process and allows
for the development of unique solutions to problems
that might have been seen as insurmountable in the past.
By expanding the creative process, and involving staff
in the development of solutions, change management is
easier to attain and more likely to be successful.
Dissemination of “Process
Thinking”. Most staff do not think of
work as process, much less an interdependent, highly
variable process. Variance in work is often seen simply
as day to day randomness, without cause or pattern.
However, to truly effect an entire system, everyone
must begin to realize the critical nature of process
in work, and the key drivers that impact it.
Six Sigma and other process methodologies have helped
bring these issues to light. At GE, where Six Sigma
was made famous, the top-down push for process improvement
via Six Sigma literally forced everyone to think about
process. However, this process thinking, while critical
to overall long-term systemic improvement, need not
Process Simulation can now be used by anyone to help
understand the critical attributes and constraints of
process flows. Through this, management and staff can
better see how their systems are impacted by interdependencies,
variability, resources and multiple constraints. Furthermore,
using simulation allows for hands-on experimentation
and a “first hand” learning experience on
improvements options available.
As this understanding of process takes hold, “process
thinking” ensues as staff begin to see their worlds
in a whole new light, as their work and their performance
is impacted by key variables. Thus, as staff understands
work as process, process change becomes easier to understand,
buy into, and therefore implement.
Process Thinking leads to the next steps in long-term
implementation assistance, Systems Learning and the
creation of creativity.