A Quick Guide to Lean in Healthcare

Applying lean principles to healthcare means giving customers the greatest possible value using the fewest possible resources. Lean management has gained popularity in recent years in many fields to reduce waste and improve efficiency, and these principles apply to healthcare in many ways.

Continuous Improvement

Lean healthcare doesn’t assume that the way things have always been done is the best way. Just like there are constant advances in medicine that lead to adjustments in patient care, the delivery of that care can also be improved continuously to make it more efficient and effective at the same time.

When healthcare management is continuously improved, it will create more value for patients by eliminating waste. When waste is eliminated, it can lead to lowering costs for users or to streamlining processes, which can improve quality of care.

Identifying Problems, Changing Standards

In lean healthcare, the main task is to find the root causes of problems in the way care is administered and to change the standard way of doing things so that the process is optimized. While it takes a considerable amount of effort to engage in this process on a daily basis, doing so is the only way to get the improvements lean healthcare seeks.

Finding better ways of doing everything from administering patient care to office management will prevent wasteful and inefficient processes that affect the profitability of the organization as well as the quality of patient care.

Benefits to Staff

Lean healthcare principles have significant benefits for doctors, nurses, and office staff in a medical office or hospital setting. Lean works best in healthcare when front-line workers are empowered to direct improvement, which shows respect for the people who do the work, rather than a top-down management approach.

Lean healthcare also unifies staff to work toward a shared goal—improved efficiency and less waste in healthcare services. Having a shared goal will encourage everyone to work together for the good of the healthcare organization, and ultimately, the patients.

When lean healthcare is done right, it leads to less frustration and stress for staff as well as a greater sense of accomplishment when the job becomes less about following rules and more about doing what’s best for patients.

Making Data and Processes Visual

Without a way for workers to access data, they will not be able to determine how well processes are working or whether improvement has occurred. A visual center can be a way to provide this data and also be a place to communicate ideas and concerns on an ongoing basis.

Certainly, staff will spend time meeting to decide how to implement lean principles in their particular organization, but a visual center can provide a way for change to happen between meetings and can show staff clearly when a change is working or not working.

Central Connecticut State University offers a Lean Healthcare Certificate Program to help you learn the principles needed to implement lean healthcare practices in your practice or workplace. Join our mailing list for information on this and other courses CCSU offers.

10 Tips for Effective Salary Negotiation

It’s annual review season for many business professionals. If your annual review is coming up and you’d like to negotiate a higher salary, you’re in luck. Here are some tips for effective salary negotiation that you can use during your next review or conversation with your supervisor.

1. Know what you want ahead of time. 

Do your research and decide before your review meeting how much you want the increase to be. If you don’t know what you want, you don’t have much chance of getting it.

2. Ask for more than the minimum you want to accept.

Asking for the high end of the range for your position will give you some wiggle room when your supervisor tries to negotiate downward (which will likely happen). Also, it is better to ask for a specific number rather than a round number or a range ($64,500 rather than $65,000). 

3. Know your worth.

Being able to talk about the value you bring to the job, ways you have saved the company money and/or time, and ways your skills have advanced can show in definitive terms why you deserve a raise. What you don’t want to do is compare your salary to the salaries of your colleagues. 

4. Put it in writing.

Making a written “brag sheet” of your accomplishments since your last increase will give you something to leave with administrators as they consider your request. Be sure not to stretch the truth or try to look even better than you are because it may negatively impact your credibility and hurt your chances of a positive response. 

5. Practice ahead of time.

It’s a good idea to role-play and practice making your case before you have an actual meeting with your supervisor because you will be more comfortable when you have practiced what you want to say ahead of time.

6. Wait until later in the week.

study in Psychology Today says that Thursday is the best day to ask for a raise, because at that point supervisors have become more flexible and open to compromise.

7. Keep it positive.

Complaining about your job duties or current salary is not an effective way to get an increase, but is more likely to turn off your supervisor. Focusing on what you bring to the table and what the company will gain by giving you a raise is a far better plan for success.

8. Use the pause.

When you do get an offer, career coach Jack Chapman says the best response is to pause and say nothing for as long as you can. This long pause may be interpreted as you being dissatisfied with the offer (whether or not that is true), and often the supervisor will increase the offer right away. 

9. Sweeten the pot.

Whether or not you get the salary increase you asked for, that shouldn’t be the end of the negotiation. You can also ask for increases in benefits like better health insurance, more time off, or a more flexible schedule. 

10. Keep trying.

If the answer to your request is a firm no, that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. There will be another annual review next year, so spend time this year adding value to your work performance by completing projects and taking continuing education courses so that your brag sheet will be even more impressive.

CCSU offers many professional development courses as continuing education to help build your skills and resume. Join our mailing list to see what we offer.

Expert Interview Series: Brendan Rigby of WhyDev on Getting Started In Development Work

Brendan Rigby is the co-founder of WhyDev. He is a global education and literacy expert.

WhyDev was started by you and your partner, Weh Yeoh, in response to a lack of student voices and critical discussion about development theory and practice. To start, can you talk a bit about what you mean by ‘development theory’, for people unfamiliar with the term?

Development theory is a fragmented collection of theories on how individual communities and countries achieve economic, social and political change. It is often dominated by economic theories and the discipline of economics, but also includes a range of academic disciplines from education and gender to communications and media.

What are the risks of biased or incomplete theories regarding development work? Why is it it important to have diverse viewpoints and demographics working together, in development work, to truly cultivate a healthy global culture?

The risks are enormous. The sociologist Basil Bernstein put forward the idea of the pedagogic device, which is a concept describing the translation of theory and knowledge into teacher’s classroom practice. Development actors use similar pedagogic devices to translate development theories into policy and programs that will impact the lives of real people, often with unintended consequences. Often they go searching for silver bullets to ending global poverty. However, if we work collaboratively and challenge each other’s viewpoints regarding how we theorize and make change happen, we can avoid repeating the mistakes of many failed silver bullets and programs.

What were some thoughts or perspectives that were being left out of the development theory conversations that you sought to correct with WhyDev? How much has that changed in the seven years since you started, and in what ways?

One of biggest ongoing concerns is the portrayal of so-called “beneficiaries”, and the reproduction of inequalities through discourse and language. How we talk about development and those involved is critically important, but often given little thought. Those who are targeted by development policies and programs are often left out of the decision-making process. They are often not involved in the design of programs, their implementation or evaluation. They are treated as passive recipients, who have little to offer because they might lack a formal education. Aid recipients, beneficiaries and target communities are portrayed as props in media and communication materials, with little or no agency. We’ve seen some change in dialogue and discourse with development actors adopting more positive portrayals of people and looking at communities through a strengths-based approach. The default, however, is still to consider poor, uneducated beneficiaries as incompetent, undignified and miserable. We have started to understand better that poverty is multidimensional and this understanding needs to be reflected in our understanding and portrayal of people’s lives.

The site DevelopmentNow.org describes development work as ” helping a country become more competitive across many overlapping sectors, from health, to education and many places in between.” What are some of the in-between sectors that are also important in development work?

I would dispute that definition as wholly superficial and lacking. Reducing development work to enabling competition is reductive and unhelpful. Development work should be defined by collaborative efforts that are evidence-based to support individual, communities and countries achieve economic, social and political change. It is hard to pin down development, because development can be everything and applied to every country. The United States of America has a lot of development work that needs to be implemented.

Unfortunately, development is often associated with “developing” countries. But, if development work is about economic, social and political change then it is relevant to every country and essentially encompasses every sector from agriculture and manufacturing to local government and early years learning.

They also talk about the key to development being sustainability. Why is it important to make sure that not only each sector is working, independent, but that all the systems are working together, as well?

We are realizing more and more that we cannot look at development work in compartments and silos. Systems thinking and complexity theory have revealed the interdependencies, non-linearity and adaptiveness through which change occurs. It is not about ensuring that all systems are working well together, but first understanding those systems and how change emerges. Sustainability can only be understood through systems thinking.

In today’s globalized culture, development work is essential for a fair and just society, healthy cultures and ecologies. Can you touch on, briefly, how globalization helps create the conditions that make development work necessary? Why is it important we address these imbalances, to fix the systems we already have in place?

I’m not sure globalization helps create the conditions for development work. Neoliberal policies, conflict, gender inequity and colonialism are just some of the past histories and present actions that have created the conditions of development work. Clearly, the current system of economic order is unjust and inequitable. Wealth is held and passed on through the hands of a handful of people. Despite progress in the number and ratio of people living in poverty, inequality is rising. The rationale for fixing the system is very strong, but the how is less certain.

For someone thinking of getting into development work as a career, how can studying the top NGOs and their employees help them get started in that industry?

If you want to work in development, look beyond the big International NGOs. Development work can be found in your own country, working on issues relevant to your communities. I think the most important step to take is networking and reaching out to people working in different sectors and organisations to talk to them about their work. Everything always looks better from the outside and it’s hard to get an inside look at organizations. Take up internship and volunteer opportunities to get this inside look. This can be at smaller organisations, not just your Oxfams and World Visions.

What are some of the non-financial benefits of working in development work and aid work, for people considering getting involved in the industry?

There are a lot of benefits to working in development, depending on the organisation you work with and how your role is defined. It is not axiomatically “good” to work in this industry. It is hard. A good organisation with effective leadership, a healthy culture and a clear vision to creating change can be nourishing to work with, however. There are also often increased mental health risks associated with humanitarian and development work that often go unreported and undiscussed, so keep that in mind when choosing development work as a career.

What are some of the most important countries and cultures in need of development work, at the moment, and why? What could happen if they don’t receive the aid that they need?

The United States is a country most in need in regards to significant economic, social and political change. In regards to humanitarian assistance, those countries include Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia.

Want to learn more about getting into a fulfilling career? View our open courses today!


Why Lifelong Learning is More Important Now than Ever Before

Lifelong learning is an admirable goal, but it is even more than that. In today’s technological society where new advances may make some jobs obsolete, lifelong learning may be necessary to keep you employed in the long-term.

Automation Brings Changes to Many Jobs

A study by McKinsey showed that about 45 percent of all labor could be automated with the current technologies available, which would eliminate a lot of jobs or at least lead to big changes in how those jobs were performed.

It has become increasingly difficult to get skilled jobs without knowledge of how to use computers and other technologies. A receptionist used to be able to get a job by having decent typing skills and a good command of English grammar, but now, applicants may be expected to know a whole host of software programs and computer applications in order to effectively do their job.

Lifelong Learning Helps Weather Changes 

The jobs that are currently available in today’s economy depend greatly on lifelong learning because they continue to change and evolve. Technology hasn’t changed what jobs are available, but it has changed what those jobs involve. Grocery store clerks now scan grocery barcodes instead of typing in prices. Bank tellers electronically scan checks.

Even those with incomes over $200,000 per year spend an average of 31 percent of their jobs doing things that could be automated, according to McKinsey. Stockbrokers, for instance, spend a good portion of their time gathering and processing data, which could be done automatically with even greater accuracy than the way it is now done.

It’s great when an employer provides training to update job skills, but not all employers are equipped to do so, and smaller employers often can’t afford to pay for continuing education. Even when employers do provide training, the knowledge gained may only help for the current position or in limited ways that benefit the employer more than the employee.

Soft Skills Training

Besides lifelong education in new technical or task-oriented skills, it can be equally (or even more) beneficial to be a lifelong learner of what employers often call soft skills. Soft skills include learning about how to get along with people, how to collaborate on projects, and how to lead a team.

Learning soft skills can help you in all of your future jobs, no matter what you end up doing as a career or how often you change jobs. Employees who show mastery of soft skills are in high demand, and can often obtain more advanced positions because of the unique skills they possess.

Interested in staying ahead of the curve? Central Connecticut State University offers continuing education courses that can give you important skills to keep up with ever-changing careers and technologies. Join our mailing list now to see what he have to offer!

Student Interview Series: Christina Pinkham

Christina Pinkham graduated from Continuing Education Department’s Human Resources Professional Certificate Program at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) in 2016. She currently works for a large insurance company in the Hartford area.

Ms. Pinkham enrolled in the program after a colleague recommended it to her. She appreciated the course instructors’ knowledge and experience. She also felt that the program was flexible and manageable for professionals with full-time careers. “The instructors understand you have other commitments and the program feels like it was designed with that in mind,” Ms. Pinkham said. “You can be flexible and complete as many or as few classes as you’d like on the timeline that works for your lifestyle.”

As a lifelong learner, Ms. Pinkham is committed to bettering herself with new challenges and expanding her knowledge base. CCSU’s Human Resources Certificate Program provided the perfect opportunity for her to enhance her career. She expects that the skills she learned in the program will be essential to her professional growth.

If you are interested in or want to learn more about the Human Resources Professional Certificate program at CCSU, please contact Judy Ratcliffe at JRatcliffe@ccsu.edu or 860-832-2276.

Expert Interview Series: Arlene Minkiewicz of PRICE Systems About How Companies Benefit From Cost Estimation and Predictive Analytics

Arlene Minkiewicz is a software measurement expert for PRICE Systems who is dedicated to finding creative solutions focused on making software development professionals successful. We recently sat down with Arlene to learn the basics about cost estimation and predictive analytics.

Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you pursue a career in cost estimation and research?

I realized early on that math and science were my strong suit and my passion.  In high school, I was enrolled in a special college prep program focusing on mathematics and engineering.  I studied at Lehigh University and graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering.  My first was a typical job for a fresh-out-of-college grad: working for an organization that built nuclear power plants, which required lots of boring paperwork for the new guy (or girl in my case).  I gave it a good year and then decided it was not for me.

What I had discovered during that time via various side jobs I took on was that I really enjoyed programming and did in fact excel in it.  So I found a job with PRICE Systems developing software.  I started working on internal software systems and quickly progressed to the development of the cost estimation software we sold to our customers.

While I enjoyed this, I was greatly intrigued by the the actual equations in the model and how they are developed.  Additionally, being on the cost research side of the organization (rather than the programming side) offered significantly more opportunities to travel to customer sites and conferences.  The best part of my job is the fact that I need to constantly track technology changes and provide guidance and equations to help my customers successfully estimate their complex technical projects and programs.

If someone were to say to you, “Cost management optimization is just a fancy term for finding ways to spend as little money as possible on a project or initiative,” how would you respond?

I would disagree vehemently! First of all, if you scour the news for project failures, particularly with software intensive systems, failure to estimate correctly is often cited as one of the top reasons for project failure.  Cost management optimization seeks to provide project managers the tools they need to understand the implications of both overestimating and underestimating projects.  Having said that, cost management optimization is truly a fancy phrase for the introduction of realism into the cost estimation and project planning exercise.

Is cost estimation more of an art form, or is it a skill that can be taught to anyone?

While good cost estimation definitely is supported by sound mathematical algorithms and processes, it is still considered an art form in many cases.  When I interview potential candidates for cost research positions, I often describe what we do as 50% math and statistics and 50% private detective.  Much of what we do from a model development perspective is understand technology and how we know it impacts costs, and then opine as to how future improvements will influence costs based on what we learn about the past and current states.

If you look at the estimation question from the perspective of our clients who need to use our tools to perform estimates, they need to be able to understand and quantify technologies and processes that they in some cases have not even invented yet.  They need to understand technologies in their industries and translate that understanding to input parameters in their cost models.  Not every estimation exercise is like this, but many require the application of knowledge and understanding, tempered with a dash of intuition, and always overseen by common sense.

When companies try to estimate the costs of a product, project, or solution, what do they often fail to take into account?

It definitely varies from estimator to estimator and from organization to organization.  When people do a bottoms-up estimate, which is focused on understanding costs at the component level,  they tend to underplay the activities around the integration of these components into a complete system.  Seasoned cost estimators tend not to miss much as long as they are estimating within their wheelhouse.   Once they start to estimate something outside of their comfort zone – especially if it’s new or unrealized technologies or processes – there is often a tendency to underestimate the costs of getting the technology mature enough to use or the learning curve associated with new processes.

People will assume that since they are using an agile development process for software that this will reduce their costs because they read somewhere that it was a more efficient way to do software.  While this may or may not be true (there is evidence to support both sides of that story), if this is the first time someone is doing an agile project, it’s not going to be less expensive than their current model because there is learning that needs to occur.

What kinds of common corporate occurrences or actions tend to have the most drastic effect on the cost estimations of a product or solution?

Often times, the estimators go into an estimation exercise knowing what the “right” answer should be.  In other words, they know what their managers expect them to come up with.

I had an experience once where, after being presented with a well-thought-out estimate with lots of history and data to back up its results, a project manager said “That estimate can’t be right. I only have 6 people, and we only have a year to do it.”  “Wishing” that a project would only cost $500,000 is a bad way to estimate projects. Sometimes I hear statements such as, “I know it cost $500,000 last time, but we’re gonna put better people on it with state-of-the-art tools, so we can certainly cut the costs by 40%.”  The proper response to that is, “Show me a study that proves that – one that does not come from the manufacturer of said ‘state-of-the-art’ tools.”

Another area where corporate behavior can influence the success of the cost estimate is when “requirements creep” is tolerated or even encouraged.  If the project you deliver a year from now has 50% more functionality than the one you prepared an estimate for, that’s not a bad estimate; that’s poor management of the project and the customers.  Estimation should not be a one-time exercise.  Projects change and sometimes those changes are important and necessary.  Good management recognizes that:

(1) if they add requirements, the last estimate is no longer valid,

(2) If they don’t do this, they will finish late and over budget, and

(3) if schedule and budget are not negotiable, adding requirements should be accompanied by the removal of requirements of the same size and complexity.

Finally, another area where corporations display bad behavior is to take the first number they get – the one they asked the development team to give them (just a ROM) when there is little known about the projects – and never let that number go.

To what extent is predictive analytics an exact science?

Predictive analytics, especially in its applications to cost estimation, is far from an exact science.  If one were to develop a predictive analytics model intended to model very rational and well-defined behavior, one could claim in that domain that predictive analytics approaches exact science.  In the cost world, it will never happen.

Cost data is some of the noisiest data I have had the pleasure to work with (and it is in fact a pleasure – one can learn even from the noisiest data if one thinks outside of the box). There are several reasons for this. At the end of a project, you can tell how many lines of code you’ve written, and you can (with some expertise) effectively quantify complexity and team experience on a well-defined scale.

The problem often comes with how much actual effort or money was associated with the program or project.  There are several reasons for this.  You may be asking people to provide quantitative measures intended to understand how much work they do and effectively measuring their productivity.  Not everyone is totally comfortable with that process, and they may cook the books.  There are also sometimes political or customer relations issues that require an organization to under-report or over-report how much something cost.

We are constantly trying to find public sources of cost data that we can share with our users to offer them guidance on their estimates.  It is often possible to find unit production costs for equipment that our customers often estimate. So I can find out what it costs (within a relatively decent margin) to produce the F-35; but if I want to understand what it costs to develop the F-35, or to develop the software that runs its various systems, that data is a lot more elusive.  Another factor that complicates is the fact that organizations will often invest internally to grow a technology in order to win a contract.  This data is not accounted to the project but rather to the IRAD monies.

Here’s where I see the real power of predictive analytics for our customers.  We are currently involved in several engagements where we are providing tools and mentoring to help our customers grow internal data collection and analysis centers where they can use predictive analytics to grow cost estimation successes with their projects

If someone wanted to take courses to learn how to work in cost estimation or predictive analytics, what core skills and areas of knowledge should they already have in order to be prepared for the coursework?

Clearly, math and statistics are important skill sets to build cost models or to use industry tools effectively.  I think it’s also important to have a good background in engineering, software, manufacturing processes, etc. depending on the types of estimation (or estimation models) you expect to do.  So if you’re going to work for Boeing as an estimator or model builder, having some knowledge of avionics and composite materials would facilitate the conversations that you as the estimator may need to have with the engineering staff.

When I look for new cost research analysts for my group, I find that systems engineers and industrial engineers offer a great broad-brush knowledge that makes a good base for the kinds of studies we have to do.  In some organizations, the people they hire for estimation have mostly a financial background. While there are aspects of a financial background that are important to estimation, for the kind of estimation that our clients usually do, having a technical background is often key.

With the growing capabilities of artificial intelligence, how will it impact cost estimation and/or predictive analytics over the next ten years?

Technology increases such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and big data are all phenomena that will offer great opportunities to help estimators better translate what they learn from historical projects into knowledge that’s vital for successful estimation of future projects.  Not that they will make predicting an uncertain future an exact science; there will always be uncertainty around cost estimates for lots of reasons. Humans will still be optimistic and driven by motivations other than a singular quest for the truth, things happen in projects that impact costs that are impossible to predict, brand new technologies can’t be fully understood based on an examination of older technologies, and the list goes on.

Basically, technology advances will absolutely improve the ability of cost estimators to learn from their past. But will artificial intelligence techniques help us to nail the cost of the next advances in artificial technology, especially the ones we haven’t conceived yet? Maybe they’ll help us get closer.

Thinking about exploring cost estimation, predictive analytics, or another type of occupation? View our open courses today!

How to Reduce Your Stress While Preparing for Your PMP Certification

Not only is the PMP certification highly-regarded among corporate teams, the exam is also very difficult. The pressure is intense for many project managers who are seeking their PMP certification, but there are also ways to reduce your stress as you prepare for this difficult but important exam. Continue reading “How to Reduce Your Stress While Preparing for Your PMP Certification”

Thinking About Changing Careers? Start Here

Your professional interests have expanded far beyond your current career path, and it’s time for a change. Where do you start?

If you’re not sure how to begin changing careers, an assessment of your current skills may be in order. Maybe there is another career path you could take using some or all of the skills you already have. Some professional advice could help you determine whether your skills will transfer to another occupation.

How Much of a Change is Needed?

Building on existing skills may be the easiest or fastest way to change careers, but it may not be the most desirable if you can’t get enough of a change that way. One way to determine whether a different job will be better for you is to try to get a few informational interviews to see what it’s really like to do that job.

Fools Rush In

Jumping into a new career before taking the time to investigate it thoroughly may lead to a situation where when the newness wears off, you end up in the same unhappy place you are now, and you have to undergo the process of changing careers all over again.

Taking your time to investigate different careers and find out what they are really like will prevent a repeat of history and help you to determine what career will actually make you happy in the long run. If you’re planning a career change, a good rule of thumb is to always think about your long-term goals and happiness.

What’s Driving the Change?

In all career changes, one or a few factors are really driving the change. Determining what those factors are will help you know what to pursue and what to avoid as a career going forward. If you are burned out from constantly dealing with people, you will not want to become a social worker or counselor or teacher. On the other hand, if your current career is so isolating that you feel lonely, a job where you have more contact with people may be just what you need.

Other aspects of a career worth considering may be the salary, the level of stress or pressure involved, and whether there are quotas or sales requirements involved. Unless a higher salary is an absolute need, don’t be afraid to start in an entry-level position and work your way up as time goes on.

For some careers, you may be able to get your prospective employer to provide some of the training you need for your new career. If you do need additional training, however, CCSU offers many different continuing education courses that can provide needed skills for many of the most sought-after careers today. View open courses to see if you can benefit from skills training we offer.