Process Improvement Saves Lives

Thought Leadership for
IT Service Management Professionals

Process Improvement Saves Lives

Posted by Steph Velte

Wed, Nov 07, 2012

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we see not only the devastation that took place, but also images of heroes. The U.S. Coast Guard rescuing the crew of a ship, medical staff evacuating newborns and taking them to an alternate hospital, firefighters trying to save flooded homes in a neighborhood in flames…

First and foremost, we should recognize the heroics of the individuals involved. For it is only through their training and courage that these feats were possible. As IT professionals, we also recognize that technology played a key role in predicting the storm, dispatching resources and enabling communications. However, process is often overlooked and not given any credit in these situations. Specifically, here are a couple examples of process tools that were used to ensure a timely response that saved lives during the hurricane:

 • 911 scripts that ensured that operators dispatched first responders to the highest priority situation

• Emergency plans that were enacted to help people prepare for the storm and evacuate

As an ITIL-centric process consultant, I help clients document complex process workflows and requirements; however, I always emphasize the importance of keeping it simple. When situations arise that require immediate action, the simple checklist often proves to be more valuable than the detailed process binder.

To any skeptics, I would highly recommend reading “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” by Atul Gawande. Atul is a surgeon by trade, but is also an author and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. In this book and his other writings, he provides real-world examples of the power of a checklist. The story that resonated most with me was his implementation of a simple 19-point surgical procedure plan at a network of eight hospitals. This plan was clearly outlined, almost academic in its level of detail, and he had the support of the hospitals’ leadership in that all surgeons would be following this new procedure. After the plan was implemented, post-surgical complications dropped 35% and the surgical death rate dropped 47%! These are amazing statistics, which simply show that this checklist not only impacted people’s health and recovery time, but saved lives!

The next time you board a flight take a look in the cockpit, and most likely you will see the flight crew going over their pre-flight checklist. If they find an issue and have to delay the flight to solve it, don’t complain but be thankful that they are thinking of your safety first. And be thankful for the process people who are not on the plane, but made sure that this list is accurate and correct. Although most of us are not pilots, doctors or in situations where our jobs involve life or death situations, I hope these examples will help you appreciate the value of a simple checklist and look for opportunities to leverage them in your daily life.

About the author

Scott Seaton, Client Principal – Evergreen Systems

Scott is an ITIL V3 Expert with more than 20 years’ experience in IT consulting and operations. Scott’s combination of technical background and diverse industry exposure, provide him with a unique perspective that he brings to each engagement. He has a strong track record of successfully helping large global clients achieve their reorganization and process optimization objectives.

Topics: ITIL, Service Management, IT Management, ITSM, ITIL Process, Process Improvement


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