Is the Veteran’s Administration Capable of Performing Process Improvement?

A friend recently visited the local Veteran’s Administration (VA) clinic and, as usual, shared his frustration with me after his appointment. It wasn’t his frustration with the doctor he finally saw; it was with the burdensome administrative processes in place. President Trump appointed David J. Shulkin as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and he received confirmation on February 13, 2017, but improvements do not seem forthcoming. Okay, only four months have passed since his appointment, but he previously had responsibility for the veteran’s health care system for almost two years under President Obama. Mr. Shulkin should have started asking the right questions by now.

Shulkin could have started a process improvement effort by identifying and prioritizing the VA’s internal administrative processes, by clarifying the identity of the customer and what they want from the process so the VA can deliver an effective business process, and by talking to employees who work in the process day to day so the VA can deliver an efficient business process.

Does the VA leadership even know which business process is in the worst shape? The process prioritization table (the key outcome of step 1 of 10 steps to business process improvement) would answer that question.

Does the entire VA organization recognize the veteran as the customer (step 6 of the 10 steps)? Does every employee treat the veteran as a guest? Does the VA know what is considered value added? Do they know what has to change to deliver effectiveness?

Does the VA understand how to make the business processes more efficient (again, step 6 of the 10 steps)? Have they talked to the right people – not just leaders, but the employees who work in the process on a day-to-day basis? No one has ever asked the doctor my friend saw what the doctor thought could be improved, yet he works there and has many ideas.

I doubt anyone would disagree the VA is an immense bureaucracy, but that should not stop Shulkin and his leadership team from taking on a business process improvement effort. Don’t you agree that our veterans are worth it?

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About powerofbpi

I'm the author of The Power of Business Process Improvement, published by the American Management Association, and an accompanying workbook. I enjoy writing and BPI work! I'm a New England sports fan and love all the teams.
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