It's been a huge year for me at The Quality Nerd, as I followed my dreams and made the business my full-time job. I'm infinitely grateful for my clients that made the leap possible, and I'm very much looking forward to continuing to work with you in 2018.
For 2018, I hope for the following:
1. To support new businesses with their first external audits - if you registered as an NDIS or Home Care Provider in 2017, you will probably have your first audit in 2018. An audit can be scary if you haven't been through one before, but a great way to calm your nerves is to be prepared by having an internal audit. I have over 10 years experience in internal auditing, and I can help you with a desktop audit, or come to your site / office to thoroughly review your records.
2. Continue writing - I love to write, especially policies, procedures, tender applications, and self-assessments! I'm certainly not called a nerd for nothing. In 2018 I would like to support businesses by helping them write documents for their processes that are meaningful, useful, and compliant to requirements.
3. Travel with purpose - this links in with goal #2, in that I'd like to do more pro-bono work in 2018. That's right, if you're a small human services or animal welfare organisation, and you need some support with quality, processes, or management, I offer 1-2 days onsite of my time to help you with your business issues. All I ask is for permission to write a de-identified case study about you.
If you'd like to start 2018 with a business bang, please contact me any time: email@example.com
Thanks for reading,
At some point in the life of your quality management system you will need to document how something is done (I say 'document' but these principles will apply to whatever format you use—written, video, voice or picture). Developing a procedure requires a delicate balancing act—too little information and you may not be controlling risk effectively, or your procedure may be plain wrong. Too much information, though, and staff will just tune it out. Here are a few tips on how to write one that works:
1. Start with a scope, criteria and objective, or, the who, what and why—who does the procedure relate to? What does it connect with (link with standards, legislation, guidelines)? And why does it exist? For example:
Procedure: Client Review and Re-assessment
Scope: Services providing Home Care Packages.
Criteria: Home Care Guidelines (August 2013).
Objective: To ensure that all clients are reviewed / re-assessed in a timely and cost-effective manner according to their need.
2. I've talked before about using flowcharts to document procedures—specifically, I think swim lane flowcharts are good because they show who is responsible for particular tasks (Visio is best for creating these types of flowcharts). If you're not into flowcharts, however, lists can also work well if you need your procedure to be in written form.
One thing to remember when creating a procedure is to ensure that you have carefully considered everything that goes in, and will come out, of the process you are documenting. This is not a new formula by any means, but one that I find simple and helpful:
Inputs - Actions - Outputs - (Outcomes - optional).
Inputs are transformed by actions into outputs. So for a referral procedure, you might have an intake form (the input), which, after it's been completed, becomes the output (a completed intake form filed in the new client's file, for example. Specifying inputs and outputs is useful as it ensures that your staff are clear on what they need to use, and what should be the result of their actions.
3. Ensure that you make connections to other relevant procedures and forms, the purpose being that if you make a change to one you will know what other documents need changing. If you have the time or inclination, documenting these in a documents register or similar makes for quick referencing when documents are changed.
4. I cannot stress this enough—document control! Put a version number and date on everything. Remember, you are controlling risk by documenting your processes. You are also ensuring that your processes meet legislation, standards, guidelines, etc. You need to be sure that your staff are using the right documents and doing the right thing.
Helping organisations set up or review their processes and documents is part of the service that The Quality Nerd provides, so if you do need help, please contact me—I know it can feel overwhelming. But you can achieve much by keeping it simple.
Thanks for reading,
Quality management, for me, exists to help organisations consistently deliver their product / service, and to provide a framework for improvement. And the best way it works is through the process approach. For service organisations, we need to know that we are meeting our clients’ needs. We also need to be sure that we are meeting those needs in a time-efficient and organisationally effective way (that is, right number of
staff, resources and support).
In human services, as we move towards client-directed service models (such as the NDIS and Consumer Directed Care for Home Care Packages), knowing that we are delivering a high-quality service is vital. So what do you do if you notice that things aren’t going so well? Maybe an increase in complaints, a budget going in the wrong direction, or, worst of all, your clients start leaving. You need to be able to clearly identify where things have gone wrong, and improve on it—and quality management can help you with that.
So, if you have already set up your system, hopefully you will have done so using a process approach. It should be fairly simple to identify where things are going wrong—take a look at your complaints / incident data, budget, and staff and client improvement suggestions. Once you’ve got your process:
1. Map or flowchart it. Use a whiteboard, post-its, Visio…it doesn't matter what you use, just take the time to get it down thoroughly. Always get the help of a team who actually ‘do’ the process.
2. From your process map, and from asking staff, can you see where the pressure points are? What parts are messy, duplicated, onerous? Highlight these.
3. Look for linkages with other processes—are there other factors influencing how well the process is working?
4. Suggest improvements! Now that you can see the process in front of you, and those pressure points, what can you do about it?
And now here’s the most important step:
5. Make sure that you articulate what change you want / expect to see, develop a way to
measure it, and come back to the process later to evaluate whether or not your change worked.
Now that bit above in bold is probably the step that doesn’t happen the most, yet it’s the most important. Do not change for change sake. If you don’t know what improvement you want to see, and then you don’t go back and check that you’ve actually improved, you are missing a huge part of the puzzle. Check if it works! That’s the bottom line.
If you have any questions about process mapping or improvement, please don’t hesitate to ask! Suggest a blog topic or send me an email with your question.
Thanks for reading,
The Quality Nerd loves all things Quality Management and Internal Audit...too much is never enough!