STOP PRESS: System Flow Model highlighted in Health Foundation Report (Dec 2016) ... see below.


6M Design®

6M Design® is a generic framework for achieving objectives by bypassing obstacles.

There are three phases: Study, Plan and Do.

About half the effort is invested in the Study phase; about a third in the Plan phase; and rest in the Do phase.

6M Design


Systems Engineering

Systems Engineering (SE) is a generic framework for specifying, designing, building, verfying and delivering systems with many interdependent parts that work in synergy to achieve and intended purpose.

SE has its roots in aerospace, and has evolved over five decades into a robust and proven approach.

SE has fit-for-purpose design as its primary objective.

SE applied in health care is called Health Care Systems Engineering (HCSE).


Whole System Simulations

A system is a set of inter-dependent parts together with the set of relationships between the parts.

This characteristic of a complex adaptive system (CAS) gives us a headache because our brains have not evolved to solve this sort of problem using either intuition or logic.

So the tool we need is one that can reliably represent the complex behaviour of a complicated system of processes - a whole system model.

And to be useful a whole system model does not need to be too detailed or too perfect - good enough is OK.


The Health Care System Flow Game

This is a whole system simulation that is presented as a fun, informative and interactive game.

To succeed a player needs to achieve a defined objective: 20% improvement in productivity and 0% increase in mortality!

It is possible - but only by developing a deep understanding of how complex adaptive systems behave.

Here is a video that demonstrates the "butterflies-wing" effect, "catastrophic transitions", "hysteresis" and the effective, but expensive and unnecessary, strategy of throwing money and space-capacity at a queue.

The treatment of congestive heart failure is not a bigger pair of legs! The treatment of congestive hospital failure is not a bigger base of beds.


To arrange an interactive demonstration of the Save The NHS Game click here

To watch the excellent King's Fund animated description the NHS unscheduled care system click here

To read Dr Kate Silvester's letter The Christmas Crisis Yet Again click here

To read the Health Foundation Report The Challenge and Potential of Whole System Flow click here


Case Study

In February 2014, NHS Scotland commissioned two health care systems engineers (HCSEs) to train and coach a small team in a Lanarkshire hospital. The problem was an A&E 4-hour performance that was well below the required level, and was deteriorating. The objective for the microsystem design team was to learn how to diagnose the root causes of the low performance, and then to design and deliver an improved alternative. Their purpose was a significant and sustained reduction in A&E waiting time for all patients.

The system behaviour chart (SBC) shows the impact of the 6M Design® process; a significant and sustained improvement in the yield of the A&E 4-hour maximum lead-time specification. The HCSE trainer/coaches stepped back in August 2014, as planned, so the measured improvement is wholly the result of the decisions and actions of the Monklands microsystem design team. The team owned it, understood it and were therefore able to maintain it.


Health Care Systems Engineering / 6M Design® Deployment

The starting point is often conflict between Governance, Operations, Quality and Finance.

Governance are focussed on Safety; Operations are focussed on Flow; Quality are focussing on patient and staff experiences; and Finance are focussed on Productivity. There appears to be little common ground or common language and the result is frustration for everyone.

The first step is build 6M Design® awareness and capability in each function separately.

Clinical governance staff develop Safety-by-Design skills, operational managers develop Flow-by-Design skills, patient-facing staff develop Quality-by-Design skills and finance staff develop Productivity-by-Design skills. These four design capabilities are synergistic.

The second step is to reconnect the functions using their 6M Design® capability as a common language.

Then use this common ground to bridge gaps and build confidence and trust, step-by-step, through microsystem design teams collaborating to dissolve real and urgent stream and system design challenges.

The outcome is an Engine of Excellence that synergises the contribution of every part and every person.

A proven path to delivering improved safety, calmer and more efficient flow, a higher quality experience for all, and a more productive and affordable health care system.


For More Information

Browse the growing library of 6M Design® case studies at JOIS

To explore how to develop individual, team and organisational capability in health care system improvement-by-design click here.