Lean Portfolio Management for Healthcare
What is the most complex activity you can think of? Running a city? Planning an Olympics? Sending people to Mars? Some activities are complex technically, others managerially; some are both.
In this series, we take a short side road in our series, exploring what Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) is and how to do it. We’ll look at how LPM fits into the transformation of healthcare services that we see play out before us and just how vital its role may be in addressing the perfect storm of challenges and opportunities that the industry is trying to navigate.
Healthcare is the Perfect Opportunity for Lean Portfolio Management
Healthcare has it all. An explosively complex ecosystem of providers, payers, services, and technologies — trying to converge on seamless customer care that provides positive outcomes tailored fluidly to the moment. It has a matching explosion in data and the need to harness it in service to that goal and reduce administrative load, with both goals facing an ever-growing labyrinth of regulation.
This is the healthcare context for a broader, underlying juggernaut of digital enablement, the demand it creates for better and better user experience, and the possibility of delivering it.
For healthcare, every factor is amped up in scale and complexity:
- data overload
- tightly locked webs of transactions, services, and stakeholders
- walls of independent hierarchies and systems that must fuse to accelerate flow and unify service
- new and ever-changing regulations clinging to every information flow
- tremendous opaqueness across systems and organizations
Read the other insights in this series on Lean Portfolio Management:
No. 1 – What is Lean Portfolio Management?
No. 2 – Business-IT Alignment Key to Scalable, Sustainable LPM
No. 3 – Lean Portfolio Management and Product-based Delivery
No. 4 – Lean Portfolio Operations and the Power of Simplicity
Launch LPM to Streamline Operations and Eliminate Waste in Healthcare
Where does LPM enter that fray? One clear point where LPM can be valuable is at the moment of last resort. When the forces mentioned above are beginning to submerge the organization beyond even basic sustainment, there is still a starting point. Make work visible and eliminate waste. This is basic program management or Lean action. Still, it also steps in to free up some “oxygen” to apply to the real problems of disentangling systems, delivering better customer care, and improving analytics.
LPM & Value Stream Mapping Reveal Redundancies & Inefficiencies
Value stream mapping will help expose these areas, along with islands of innovation twinkling in the maze. It will also provide a viewpoint to eliminate redundancies, lower priorities, and excess work-in-progress, which is always present. The steps laid out in Article 1 and Article 3 in this series still apply, but here we are touching on a whole other use of LPM.
LPM can be a Diagnostic Tool to Reveal Problems between Strategy & Execution
The principles and practices of LPM also provide a lens through which to view your organizational and IT situation holistically and in context. It can be used as a diagnostic.
Many new ways of working, managing, and developing systems have been blowing through organizations in the last two decades in response to and driven by the interconnected market and technological change. Agile, DevOps, Lean, organizational models, approaches to innovation, and a plethora of tools and methods in each bucket.
While the principles behind many of them are quite old, these ideas and approaches have taken on new life in the digital age, and each is powerfully useful. However, as the lynchpin between strategy and execution, LPM has become the capstone and orchestrator for all of these. It makes visible and manages the final, holistic context of business value delivery and purpose that all of these mindsets, frameworks, and principles exist to support.
LPM Provides Observable Evidence of Barriers & Indicators for Success
That is our premise. Not because it sounds great, but because it’s observably true. Although there are areas we have not yet looked closely at in this series, you could take just what we’ve discussed so far and use it to look out over your healthcare department, business unit, or organization and conceive how it might work better. If you did it diligently and with a clear eye, you would be able to have a highly useful view of the significant barriers you face, targets to achieve, and next steps to move forward, including:
- Where is the portfolio most impeded in supporting the strategy the organization is trying to carry out?
- Where is execution most flawed relative to what we now know should ideally be happening?
In Agile circles, it is often said that Scrum by itself does not solve any impediments to delivery; it simply makes them painfully evident. So it can be said of LPM at the level of the entire portfolio and for value delivery across the whole organization.
LPM is Particularly Useful in Healthcare Because it Simplifies the Complex
While you and your committed partners may need to start in a vertical area to hone portfolio execution before going broad (See Article 3 in series), you can now confront a wider scene and conceive a path forward through your transformation journey. This is especially important in industries like healthcare, where almost every facet of the sense-and-deliver challenge is large, complex, and seemingly bound to every other. Using the underlying principles and essential constructs of LPM can help you find your way.