It’s been over 90 days since a group of leaders in Saskatoon Health Region sat down together to map out what they should be doing in their day. And so far, what they came up with is making their days easier to get through.

The focus of that September session was developing Leader Standard Work. Most of Saskatoon Health Region is very familiar with process standard work, which is the best known way to complete a task. Leader Standard work is the best known way to structure or schedule a leader’s day. Tasks – both daily and weekly – and routines are written down, and followed.

Creating standard work for leaders is meant to change how leaders respond to problems, think about patients and interact with each other. It standardizes a portion of their day, and gives them tools to proactively run it.

“Leader standard work only makes up a portion of the leader’s day,” noted Tammy Vornbrock, Kaizen Fellow, who set up the session to develop leader standard work. “We realize that flexibility to do what’s needed is still required. That’s why one of the guidelines used is that Leader Standard Work is created for 80% of the leader’s day when they are closest to the front line, about 50% of their day at the managerial level, about 25% of a director’s day, and about 10% of a vice president’s day.”

As part of the workshop, and as a directive from the CEO, leaders were encouraged to create a “no-meeting zone” early each day to hold huddles and be available to staff. This helps reduce ambiguity for staff – they know what to expect because the manager does the same thing at the same time each day, Vornbrock explained.  It also increases manager capacity, as instead of sending emails with questions or concerns, staff know they can simply bring them up when they see their leader on the gemba, which happens at the same time every day.

Ninety days post-workshop, the standard work is doing what it was meant to do.

Brian Berzolla

Brian Berzolla is one of the leaders in Saskatoon Health Region who has been using Leader Standard Work.

Brian Berzolla, Director of Support Services for Saskatoon Health Region, has noted more than a few changes in his workload since incorporating leader standard work into his day. The number of emails he needs to address has decreased, and he’s been managing invoices that need approval and other requests in a different way, so that they no longer pile up.

“Leader Standard Work has allowed me to take and keep control of my day,” Berzolla stated. “It’s proven that it is okay to politely say ‘no’ to interruptions, and it’s given me the ability to rearrange meeting times so they work for everyone.”

In short, it has changed the way Berzolla works, including how he prioritizes things.

“I no longer feel stressed about fitting important things into my day,” he said. “And I am finding myself on the Gemba much more.  Being available to support my managers is important and I feel I am able to do so,” he added.

Leader Standard Work is also working at the managerial level.

“It’s forced me to think about organizing my day,” said Rosine Garabedian, Housekeeping Manager at Saskatoon City Hospital. “It’s helped me create pockets of dedicated time in my day for the things that need to get done. I’ve found the reserved time I have in the mornings helps me do my department-focused work.”

Berzolla and the three housekeeping managers at Saskatoon hospitals have synced up their calendars, so all of them have the same reserved time. This allows them to all do Gemba visits, attend huddles daily and weekly, and complete housekeeping audits every day.

Leaders Standard Work is also working at the assistant manager level, Garabedian noted.

“We’ve bought into it 100%,” she said. “I love the idea of a standard day, even knowing that it may go off agenda at some point.”

The team tracks the things that pull them from their plan. If it’s something that happens regularly, it probably needs time dedicated to it or it’s something that has to be addressed with their supervisor.

Leader Standard Work is currently being introduced to other units, including adult medicine and complex care.