I’ll admit that I am not always a patient person. I have low tolerance for lots of talk and no action when it comes to service excellence teams. But one thing I’ve learned after dealing with dozens of service teams over the years is that lack of action by a team is usually a symptom of something bigger. When teams fail to execute, I usually spend time drilling down into the reason for inaction. Most of the time, the inaction isn’t due to apathy or lack of motivation, but rather fear. I have found that fear can take many shapes in different cultures. In a culture of blame or micromanagement, there is fear of making mistakes or fear of being judged. After all, if you don’t take any action, you won’t be wrong. I often think: How would General Patton lead this team?
I recently had a discussion with a service team that had worked for weeks to create service standards. Although they were completed, the team could not get to the point of actually releasing them throughout the organization. Why? Fear. I was curious about why they were so immobilized. I asked questions in hope of learning what would cause them to be so hesitant. Their answers pointed to a culture of blame. The culture did not accept new ideas. One of them asked me, “How will we know if these are right?” I found it interesting that the perceptions of both the individual and the team is that things are either right or wrong. There was even fear about passing the standards along to the senior leaders. They feared that the executives would reject them. There was even fear that the executives would accept them and the responsibility for the success would lie squarely on the team’s shoulders. Fear of success and fear of failure.
When leaders give the go ahead for the service team, there needs to be clear objectives, guidelines and responsibility with legitimate authority. To move the organization forward, all of these are essential. You will waste time and resources if these things are not in place. A plan is words on paper if it’s not executed.
My advice to the team? Go for it! What’s the worst that can happen? I think that healthcare organizations are so risk-adverse that it stifles innovation and action. When in doubt ask: what’s the worst that could happen? Believe me, no one has ever had a series of sentinel events from poorly worded standards.
Patton said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” Why wait? Perfection will elude you. There is so much to be done to improve the patient experience. Take action, learn along the way and keep raising the bar.