Bringing Clarity to the Cornea Donation Process with Change Academy

July 2015

Imagine a goal that seems insurmountable. Perhaps clearing out your garage of everything piled inside so that your car will fit inside. Now amplify the scale of that goal to the size of a complex, international social venture. How would you begin to achieve a goal that seems impossible in the big picture?

That is where the CASE Change Academy comes in. Led by CASE Senior Fellow Dan Heath, the Change Academy works with social ventures to identify and dramatically boost their performance on a metric “that matters.”

On April 13th, Change Academy began its two-day seminar with SightLife, the largest provider of corneas for transplant in the world, founded by Fuqua School of Business alumnus Monty Montoya. Over 40,000 corneal transplants are performed in the United States each year, using recovered corneal tissue to restore or improve sight. SightLife works together with hospitals and organ banks to ensure that corneas reach transplant recipients as quickly as possible. For the seminar, SightLife brought members of their core team and representatives from two of their organ bank partners to work together.

SightLife’s goal is developing a plan to increase the quality and quantity of corneas available for transplant. But where does one even start tackling such a multifaceted issue? The day begins with a flurry of Post-It notes on the wall as teams worked together to diagram the supply chain from the moment a donor is identified to when the cornea reaches the surgeon. Immediately people identify areas where the process could be streamlined.

“If we received the electronic medical records from the hospital that could decrease the time it takes to review donors,” says one of the organ bank representatives as she jots down her thought on the Post-It.

“How can we shorten the amount of time it takes to contact next of kin?” asks another representative.

Dan Heath helps SightLife talk through how they will reach their goal.
Dan Heath helps SightLife talk through how they will reach their goal.

Dan Heath helps SightLife talk through how they will reach their goal.Recovery of corneal tissue can take 48 to 90 hours. Shaving even an hour off this recovery time makes a dramatic difference in the success of the transplant. Through the day, Dan Heath walks the SightLife team through a series of exercises to help refine and bring clarity to their metric.

“Ambiguity is the enemy of change. Look for the bright spots in your process, study why they are bright spots, and find ways to clone that success,” Heath reminds the group, “We want to stretch but we don’t want to dream. Don’t set yourself up for failure with an irrationally high goal.”

The team continues to iterate. Synthesizing down through the Academy tools and frameworks, SightLife arrives on their refined goal: Decrease the average number of hours from death to approval for corneal tissue by 20%. Working together, they build a concrete, quantifiable plan to succeed on reaching that goal in the next six months.

“One of the most precious things we give organizations is the gift of focus,” said Heath the first day of Change Academy.

By the enthusiasm and conviction emanating from the room by the end of the second day, SightLife is well poised to convert that focus into action. In just six short weeks, the banks have already improved their performance by 14% and 8%.

Watch the SightLife team in action during the Change Academy and we’ll keep you updated on their progress!