Events

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Past Events

Co-presentation at the Healthcare Systems Process Improvement Conference 2022
January 20, 2022

How Can Systems Thinking Facilitate Transformative Change in Organizations?

There is ever-growing need for transformational change in healthcare on many fronts: to improve quality and accessibility of care; to reduce the time, money, and other resources required to deliver that care; and to respond more effectively to pandemics such as COVID-19 and to other disruptive stressors. However, the protracted difficulty and high rate of failures of change-initiatives in healthcare – indeed, in organizations of any type, size, or sector – continues to be a significant obstacle to such transformation. We need a better, more fundamentally sound, more effective approach to designing and implementing change in healthcare.

Transformational change initiatives are far more likely to have lasting success, when principles from systems thinking, systems engineering, and industrial engineering are applied to the entirety of the initiative, such as:

  • Thorough understanding of the present state of the organization, including what precisely is needing improvement and what systemic interdependencies reinforce the problematic state and/or are vulnerable to cascaded disruption;
  • Unambiguous articulation of the scope, nature, costs, benefits, and verification of the desired improvement;
  • Good-faith involvement of all stakeholders from inception, both for collaboration and for cooperation; and
  • Looking through a variety of lenses at the needed changes, possible repercussions, and proposed solutions.

This presentation explores how understanding and approaching the organization as a system can help to identify, avoid, and address the underlying causes of change-resistance, thereby facilitating positive, lasting, transformational change.


Excerpt from the Healthcare Systems Process Improvement Conference 2021
September 7, 2021

Is it possible for an organization to be “Too Lean”?

Efficiency (of a company, organization, supply chain, or other sociotechnical system) is irrelevant if it neglects or sacrifices effectiveness, which is the capability to deliver the necessary value when and as needed – without which, the organization fails to fulfill its purpose, its very reason for existence. Furthermore, it is important to remain effective and to continue to deliver value, even when unexpected or undesirable conditions emerge, either internally or externally.

Robustness, resilience, and recoverability are among the quality attributes that characterize the capability to remain effective under stress. Unfortunately, many of our organizations and other sociotechnical systems demonstrated insufficiency of these attributes in the wake of COVID-19 – and pandemics are just one type of catastrophic stressor.

For our systems to have greater capacity to maintain effectiveness in the face of stressors, they must have “something extra” in reserve, such as redundant functionality, surplus inventory, and multiple and flexible ways to accomplish specific tasks. However, the lack of a systems perspective and approach in Lean process-improvement could identify such “extra” as superfluous waste to be eliminated – and, arguably, this created much of the vulnerability that COVID-19 exposed in sociotechnical systems such as supply chains.

In short, there is indeed such a thing as a company or organization being “Too Lean”!


Featured article in PPI Systems Engineering Newsjournal
May 2021

Culture, Structure, Learning, and Disappointment in Organizations as Systems

The complexity of modern organizations (and their products/services and environments) demands a systemic approach to their design, operation, and improvement.  Failure to approach this complexity systemically is the root cause of most of the problems facing organizations today.  A conceptual model of an organization is proposed, featuring five orthogonal elements – culture, structure, process, technology, and learning – that must be understood, approached, and managed as interdependent components of a complex, adaptive, sociotechnical system of systems.  This model can be broadened, distilled, and simplified into a mindset and methodology that enables everyone throughout an organization to become agents for its continuous improvement.


Webinar on Systems Thinking
(Sponsored by the Wright State University Chapter and the Indiana Chapter of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers)
October 22, 2020

An Introduction to Systems & How We Think About Them

People use the word, “system” in many different ways – but what exactly does it mean, and how can better understanding of systems lead to better outcomes? This presentation introduces the concepts of systems and systems thinking as essential skills and powerful tools in the management of complexity towards desired results. The interdisciplinary roots of systems thinking trace back to biology, ecology, sociology, and cybernetics. Every workplace and job-description can benefit from this holistic approach to understanding, anticipating, and influencing the behavior of interacting components whose “whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”


Full-day pre-conference workshop at 2020 IISE Annual Conference
(Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers: New Orleans, LA)
[* due to COVID-19: conference converted to remote-only; workshop cancelled *]

Improving the Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Quality of Organizations as Systems, by Leveraging Disappointment

This innovative, interactive workshop explores a holistic, systemic model and approach for organizations.  It explains how five subsystems – culture, structure, process, technology, and training – must be designed, implemented, operated, and improved as interdependent components of the larger sociotechnical system.  It investigates common problems in organizations and illustrates their systemic identification and remediation.  It contrasts centralized, episodic intervention with distributed, inherent wellness.  Finally, it explores a mindset and a methodology that enables everyone throughout the organization to be ongoing agents of positive change and of improved quality, by leveraging disappointment as a trigger and focus of inquiry.


YouTube video
April 23, 2020

Complacency Lie: A COVID-19 Parody

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a “stress test” on individuals, companies, and governments — and the impacts and responses suggest that we have a lot of room for improvement. One by one, our illusions (and the complacency that is both cause and effect of those illusions) are dying, as we realize that things nearly aren’t as robust as they should be.

This song charts my own journey of that unhappy discovery, told against the music of Don McLean’s classic rock ballad, “American Pie”.

While the word “systems” doesn’t appear front and center, this song addresses the systemic ripple-effects of COVID-19 (and of our responses to it) throughout our sociotechnical systems.


Conference Presentation
(10th Annual Clinical Informatics Summit, Southern California Chapter of HIMSS)
May 18, 2018

The Informatics Pause

Only a small fraction of available healthcare data is analyzed presently, and the imbalance is likely to increase substantially in the near term. At the same time, there is increasing demand for data-driven healthcare decisions. If we are to address both problems without compounding them, we need to cultivate and to employ consistently a mindset that seeks the bigger picture around the purpose, provenance, and protection of healthcare data.

In this presentation, we will:

  • Explore healthcare as a sociotechnical system (people, process, and technology)
  • Describe quality within that systemic context
  • Illustrate the crucial role of Clinical Informatics in ensuring healthcare quality
  • Suggest an “Informatics Pause” as a means to avoid “data-driven dysfunction”