NIATx Tools: Tips from Flowchart Pro, Scott Gatzke

Submitted by: 12/07/2016 by Maureen Fitzgerald

In the NIATx model, change teams use four main tools to guide their improvement projects:

  • Walk-through: One of the best way to understand your customers is to walk through a process as they do. What’s it like to call your organization to schedule an appointment? The surprises that emerge from the walk-through experience have inspired countless successful change projects.
  • Flowchart: Flowcharting helps an organization identify bottlenecks, duplications, errors, and unnecessary steps.  
  • Nominal group technique: A team-based decision-making process that groups can use to identify problems in a process, or to brainstorms and prioritize potential solutions to test.
  • Rapid-cycle testing or Plan-do-study-act (PDSA) cycles: Teams test one change on a small scale for a short period of time, collecting data to measure the effectiveness of the change.

Scott Gatzke, NIATx coach and Director of Dissemination for Elder Tree, has taught many change teams how to use each of these tools. As our resident flowchart pro, Scott offers the following tips for a perfect flowcharting exercise:

Scott’s Top Three Tips for Flowcharting

1. Assign a clear beginning and end to the process. "A lot of times, teams start out wanting to flowchart the entire customer experience, from the point of first contact to treatment discharge,” says Scott. “I’ve found that teams get better information when they focus on small portions of the process. Flowcharting something as simple as the process of parking a car and finding the correct entrance to the organization can yield great information for improving your customer’s experience.

2. Keep your group small: Limit your flowcharting team to no more than five people. "Your flowcharting exercise can get derailed if there are too many people involved," says Scott.

3. Include people who are actually part of the process. 
Scott: "That means that if you’re doing a flowchart of your intake process, be sure to include the front desk staff." 

The NIATx Change Leader Academy includes interactive exercises that give you the skills to use these tools as soon as you return to your office. Our next NIATx Change Leader Academy is coming up in Madison, WI, April 25-26, 2017. Watch your email and the January E-news for registration information.   

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