VA Takes Next Big Step in Improving its Process Improvement

VA Takes Next Big Step in Improving its Process Improvement

By Discovery Lean Six Sigma

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The federal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) took another step forward in process improvement, launching a program to achieve more transparency and accountability in the agency.

The move comes on the heels of the VA’s recent actions in process improvement designed to better serve United States veterans. Those include the recent Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act (AWP).

The new program takes a big step forward in how the agency operates.

The agency’s moves are designed to change the culture at the VA and allow for employees to feel protected in coming forward about areas they see that need improvement, according to a news release.

“Under this administration, VA is committed to becoming the most transparent organization in government,” VA Secretary David J. Shulkin said in the release.

Adverse Actions

Seeking to deal with ongoing issues regarding the quality of services to veterans, President Donald Trump had promised changes during his 2016 presidential campaign.

In response, the creation of the AWP Act allowed the VA to begin internal investigations based on feedback from veterans and employees. The idea was to first identify the issues that hinder service and then improve processes to make the VA more efficient and to better serve veterans.

The first report on the “adverse actions” taken with employees from July shows a remarkable number of suspensions, demotions or removal of workers. The employees worked across all areas in the VA. They include attorneys, cemetery caretakers, program analysts, paralegals, claims examiners, rehabilitation counselors and loan officers, among others.

The information will continue to be posted online in weekly updates.

In addition to the more aggressive approach in dealing with under-performing employees, the VA also now mandates that any settlement with an employee for more than $5,000 must get approval from a senior-level official.

Shulkin said he wants taxpayers and veterans to understand the agency is committed to transparency as well as to the best possible management of tax dollars.

The VA and Six Sigma

The agency already has incorporated principles of Lean Six Sigma into the department for process improvement. They take a Human Centered Approach to the methodology, calling employees the “beating heart of the VA.”

In 2014, the Innovators Network was launched. The program trains employees on innovative approaches to solving challenges. It also fosters a culture of continuous improvement at the agency. Part of the effort involves taking feedback from veterans – the “customers” of the VA – and using this information to spark needed changes to improve services.

The process calls for “relentless” testing of new approaches to determine outcomes.

The department also offers the Veterans Affairs Acquisition Academy, in which employees are offered courses in Lean Six Sigma at the Green Belt and Black Belt levels.

13 Areas of Improvement

After being appointed as VA secretary by President Trump, Shulkin reviewed 137 studies of the VA by outside sources as well as the agency’s own assessments.

He then identified 13 areas requiring improvement. They are:

  • Accountability
  • Staffing
  • Access (in response to scandals about long wait times at VA hospitals)
  • Paying providers on time
  • Community care
  • Quality of services
  • Streamlined disability claims and appeals processes
  • Updated information technology
  • Capital assets (the agency’s own assessment found that $18 billion is needed to update old buildings)
  • Construction projects (many are on hold)
  • Bureaucracy (complicated rules are at the heart of many of the issues on this list)
  • Waste, fraud and abuse
  • Veteran suicide

While time is needed to sort through these issues, this step toward more transparency and tighter fiscal control shows that emphasis on process improvement methodology has taken hold at the VA.

The post VA Takes Next Big Step in Improving its Process Improvement appeared first on Six Sigma Daily.

By: James LoPresti
Posted: August 1, 2017, 3:36 pm

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