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Can You Handle the Truth?

Posted by Kristin Baird on October 18th, 2011 • No Comments »

Remember the scene from the movie A Few Good Men when Jack Nicholson’s character shouted from the witness stand, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”? I often feel like shouting that myself. There are so many times I face off with leaders who want us to come in, wave the magic wand, and fix their patient satisfaction scores rather than facing the truth about the underlying culture that is at the root of poor patient satisfaction.

Fortunately, there are some stellar exceptions. My team was recently invited into an organization to conduct a culture assessment. As part of our due diligence, we do mystery shopping and conduct in-depth interviews and a series of focus groups designed to identify the crucial elements of the culture. During the culture assessment, I had one of the best encounters with the senior leadership team that I have ever had. The CEO asked her senior leadership team if they were truly ready to hear the truth. She advised them, “If you are not ready to hear the truth and embrace the challenges before us, this is the time to speak up. We don’t have to conduct the assessment. But if we do, we must be ready to face the truth.” She went on to say that she is ready to take an honest look at the organization and is ready to do what it takes to improve the culture. This is exactly the type of leader I love working with. She is inspiring and gutsy enough to stand up and make some tough choices. Their organization sits at the 70th percentile for satisfaction, but sees a need for improvement. My prognosis for their success? Excellent.

Compare that to another organization with whom we recently worked. Their patient satisfaction scores for “likelihood of recommending” slide between the 2nd and 4th percentile. When we presented our recommendations, the CEO led the senior leadership team in shooting holes in the findings and arguing that they needed more analytics to justify making any changes.

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see the problem. They want me to fix the scores, not help them deal with the underlying problems that lead to poor scores. I have visions of carrying the Jack Nicholson video clip around with me and, when the need arises, hit the button and let Jack tell them, “You can’t handle the truth!”

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Baird Consulting


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