Continuously Improving – 2013 Lessons Learned

Vanda Ametlli, Henry Ford Health System, IIE Great Lakes Region Vice President 

As I was completing my 2013 work evaluation, I started thinking about some of the areas in which I grew in professional & personal life. Last year, a similar blog post focused on the areas of Decision Making, Knowledge, and Perfectionism & Work-life balance.

Power of Data – Back in 2012, I attended Institute for Healthcare Improvement National Forum, where Dan Heath, co-author of “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard”, was one of the keynote presenters.  Dan focused on how our emotional system drives how we respond to change. It’s unreasonable to expect to motivate the elephant through data information.  As an intern and a young industrial engineer, you build a mindset that data drives change. Data is powerful but as industrial engineers, we should be aware that data alone cannot serve as a motivation and make change stick. Data provides us with direction. Learn to use data as a direction and not recycle it as a motivation for change. 

Timing – Just like in personal life, there is a time for everything and as the Byrds said a time for every season.  As IEs, we get trained to become efficiency experts.  We can easily spot opportunities to streamline a process; however buy-in from all parties can be a road block.  A few times this past year, I ran into situations that made me wonder, how come I couldn’t get enough traction?  Is this worth pursuing, when other competing deadlines are in front?  Do all the stakeholders understand why change is needed?

As you grow in the IE profession, it’s important to recognize when a team, department is ready to change. It’s capitalizing on that moment that can turn into successful results.  All the puzzle pieces need to fall together. Don’t take your initial attempt to promote a new way as defeat.  Find the right moment or personal to leverage and you will have your work cut out for you. 

Maximizing Resources/ Leveraging People – Every successful organization knows that people are its most valuable asset.  As IEs, while we might not in direct manager roles, we are responsible for developing people as we work through different projects. Looking back 2 years ago, when assigning project task, I did not take a lot of time to think on a detailed level, the skillset of an individual.  Taking time to know the strengths of your coworkers benefits the growth of your team.  You don’t magically get to know a coworker’s strengths. It takes observation, trial & error and communication.

Work-Life Balance – If there is a lesson that I learned from 2013 is that work-life balance gets harder as more responsibilities are added on.  This past year, I learned that I got worst at balancing and part of it was lack of planning.  Allocating time for planning is a catch-22. There’s no immediate gratification from planning allocation of your time – however, it’s a strong method to assist toward some kind of balance.

What are some of your professional lessons from this past year? What professional achievements do you plan on focusing this year?