Do Improvement Boards at a Work Center Really Work?

Do Improvement Boards at a Work Center Really Work?

Hospitals have embraced the improvement methods in their operations that were pioneered in manufacturing. Many of them are deep into their operational excellence journeys with several of the same tools we see in business, such as changeover practices in operating rooms and performance boards at work centers like patient rooms.

One hopeful consultant saw a dry erase board in the room of a patient he was visiting that looked much like the hour by hour boards he had helped to install in industry. Curious about the impact, he asked the nurse, “How do you like the performance board?”

“I hate it,” she replied. “No one ever looks at it. And the other day I got audited. Thank goodness I had them all filled in. But really, with all we have going on here, how can that be so important? I have so much to do. I don’t have time to fill out a stupid board.”

There are three critical elements in any improvement process, especially one that has a board for collecting and displaying data. The board must be part of a reflection on the data collected. It is essential for the data to measure what is important to the person recording it. And the board must be in the path of the work.


The goal of a performance board at a work center is to create a visual display of the area’s performance in such a way that a group of people can gather, look at the data with the operator in the very area the work is performed, and reflect on how it can be improved. It is a method for the operator to share the actual results compared to the expectation and tell the story of the problems exposed.

“No one ever looks at it!”

What is Important

For a nurse responsible for the care of a patient, it is important to know if the patient has taken his or her medications, the time of the patient’s scheduled procedures, if he or she is scheduled for discharge. Has the patient seen the physician? Were the patient’s questions answered? When these expectations are not met, there is a problem – a problem that directly affects the nurse’s ability to provide care.

“With everything going on, how can this be important?”

In the Path of the Work

It is critical for nurses responsible for patient care to administer the right prescriptions at the right time. There are advanced bar code systems ensuring wrist bands are scanned and checked before every medication is administered. The nurses write it down on several forms. It is important. Having a visual display of that information helps everyone keep track of it, and if something is missed, the team can reflect on what problem needs to be solved.

“I don’t have time to fill out this stupid board.”

Do performance boards really work? If the purpose is to simply have a board, the answer is no. But if they are used in an effective way to visually display essential information that is in the path of the operators’ work, and a team looking to improve reflects on them daily, they are excellent tools.

Help your organization’s performance boards really work. The first step is to simply visit one every day.

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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